One of things I am learning in my first student pastor position is the value of saying no to certain things. For ministry leaders, and student pastor like me, simply saying no can be one of the hardest things to do in ministry. In his book, What Matters Most, Doug Fields says, “While saying no results in many personal benefits, it’s a difficult word for most ministry-minded leaders to utter because their ministry culture values yes.” A lot of times student ministry culture says “you have to do more” and student pastors are falling for that lie left and right. I’ll admit, I’m not an expert at this. Being fresh out of college and in my first student pastor position, it’s easy to “always make sure I have enough on the calendar.” I’m in the process of learning how to say the word no. I am learning that there comes a time, usually it’s a lot of the time, when I need to say no because there is more important stuff to focus on. Here are some times to say no in student ministry.
1. When it takes the place of your own personal relationship with God. In a post awhile back called The Hardest Person to Lead, I quoted Chris Finchum as he said, “It’s easy to fall in love with the work of Christ rather than the person of Christ.” Student pastors must say no to something if it will get in the place of their personal walk with God. Doug Fields said this about his early years in ministry: “Because in the busyness of my first decade of ministry, I abandoned my first love (God) and developed a love affair with doing ministry.” The number one key to successful youth ministry is being a student pastor who is in love with Jesus and walking consistently with Him. Many student pastors are missing this important key because they are too busy with youth ministry to invest in their own walk with God. Revelation 2:4 says, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” Say no if it will get in the way of personal walk with God.
2. When it puts your character and integrity at stake. Another time we need to say no in student ministry is when it puts your personal character at stake. The first qualification for a leader given by Paul in 1 Timothy 3 is to be “above reproach.” As student pastors, we must guard our character. From example, don’t say yes to taking a student of the opposite sex home if it’s only going to be yourself and the student in the car. Your personal character is more important than a ride home. Some may disagree with me on this point, but I believe a student pastor’s personal character is more important that ministry to teenagers. We are called to be holy and must say no to whatever puts that at stake.
3. When it gets in the way of your family. I remember listening to a Perry Noble leadership podcast as he talked about the topic of putting your spouse before ministry. One statement he said that stuck in my head was “Jesus will take care of His church.” God called student pastors to be pastors to their spouses and children first. We are to be leaders at home, before we are leaders at church. At the end of the day, Jesus will take care of your youth ministry. God has called us to be pastors of our home before pastors of the students at our church. Don’t sacrifice your family on the alter of student ministry, it’s unbiblical and not worth it. Say no if it gets in the way of your family.
These are just a few times I believe we need to say no as student pastors. You may have noticed, I didn’t say anything about programing or even the student ministry, I focused on the leader as a person. I believe building a person is more important than building a ministry. Ric Garland says, “Build the man and God will build the ministry.” When student pastors focus on growing in Christ as a person, God will grow the ministry.
I mentioned Doug Field’s book What Matters Most a few times in this post. This is a great little book that I would recommend anyone in ministry to read. It will help you underatand what matters the most and how you can say no to all the other stuff. Click here to purchase a copy of it from Amazon.