Got a little story for ya ministers- there were three identical villages facing an identical problem; a large boulder had nestled itself in the village river, halting most of the flow of the river. The people were thirsty. The crops weren’t being watered. The village water hole dried up. The people of the villages met and sought out those who could help them the most. One village called on the strongest, another called upon the smartest, and the last village called on the man with the largest heart.
All the men who were called upon responded eagerly and sought direction to the boulder problem. They thought, discerned, trained – knowing it was important to work quickly to solve the dilemma of their people. The strongest man worked on becoming even stronger, lifting and pushing until he felt confident in his strength. He then faced the boulder, smashed it with his rock hard fists, and cracked the boulder in half with a mighty swing. The smartest man began to examine the rock, poking and prodding it for weaknesses. He then spent many days building a lever device to dislodge the rock from its rut, freeing up the flow of the river. The man with the largest heart rallied the people. He used his skills with people to organize and motivate the villagers. He then went out to the rock, villagers in tow, and stirred the hearts of the men and women. Working together, the villagers dislodged the boulder.
Now I ask; which village chose best? Think about it for a few seconds.
All three men succeeded in their task and they were all equally as effective. Each man embraced his ability and utilized it completely. Now, imagine the strong man heard about the intelligent man’s lever or the motivational man’s speeches and attempted to imitate those actions. He could have still saved the village, but it may have taken much longer or he could have lost the support of the villagers.
I tell this story because in this age of social media and expert blogs, we are inundated with information. Not just with whom the Kardashians’ are marrying this month or how many weeks Justin Bieber’s serving in jail this time, but about how to be the best us. It’s really silly when you stop to think about it. I’ve read just about every Buzzfeed article on how to be the best 27 year old out there, or how to embrace life to the fullest, or how to be the best leader… and guess what? None of them have quite fit yet. Why? Because I’m a unique individual.
This same sentiment fits with youth ministry (or really any job). It’s great to collaborate with other ministers who have shared the same experiences as you. It’s the reason I chose to work Ablaze Ministries as a youth minister instead of seeking a job elsewhere. The level of support here is unequal. However, what would have happened to the villagers if the strong man had spent all of his effort trying to replicate the results of the other two men rather than recognizing his strength? He may have built a faulty, dangerous lever. Or he may have spent all of his time unsuccessfully motivating people to help, discouraging those who did show up.
It’s important to know yourself above anything. If you don’t have a solid grasp of what you do best, what you enjoy, how you communicate best with others, collaboration starts to muddle the waters rather than strengthen them. We begin to try too hard to combine all of the ideas instead of picking what ideas would mesh best with us, and our youth begin to lose out.
If you’re great with talks, give talks. If you’re a good motivator, spend that time teaching your core team how to reach their full potential. If you like games, create some games that will teach in a fun and interesting way. Now, do not allow yourself to become one-dimensional in your ministry, but do allow yourself some time to develop before you implement every idea you ever read on your field. Your ministry will benefit more from using the talents and strengths God gave you to lead than from you taking every idea you read, throwing it in a blender, and hoping something sticks.
-written by Chris Johnson, former youth minister at St. Mary’s in Caldwell