In ministry, you have the opportunity to be a part of several retreats. After the fifth or sixth retreat, we as ministers can be tempted to ease into a comfort zone. I have found that there are times when you have to be intentionally open to what God can do in your life and how he can use you on retreats. If you approach a time with God, even with this open attitude, there are times where the temptation to just go through the motions can creep in. Sometimes, even being aware that temptation might come doesn’t make that temptation go away.
I was staffing a retreat for high school youth and had many different roles on the retreat, but most of my time was spent helping out with cooking and cleaning in the kitchen and running errands. I was prepared to serve behind the scenes to help everyone else spend time ministering to the youth. I looked for chances to spend time hanging out with the teens, but I wasn’t expecting to make a difference on the retreat by directly ministering to them.
Don’t limit what God is prepared to do through you
Late on Saturday evening, I was cleaning up in the kitchen while the youth had some free time. One of the girls came up to me and started asking me about the time I had spent as a coach and teacher. She was fascinated about the path I had taken to become involved in ministry. We eventually started talking about track and cross-country, and one of her friends came to join us. I spent about thirty minutes talking to them about those sports and sharing my experiences with them and listening to theirs. I wasn’t trying to do anything special but God had His hand in this interaction the whole time.
A little later, those same girls came up to me and thanked me for talking to them. I could not get over the fact of how grateful they were. It started to make me believe that I was staffing this retreat for more than just behind the scenes work. This encounter inspired me to find more ways to be present to the teens I was serving all weekend.
let’s keep ourselves open and out of God’s way so He can continue to do more than we expect
By the end of the retreat, I had been in a few skits and given a talk, but still didn’t feel like I had spent that much time around the kids. When it came time for the retreat to end, I could not get over how appreciative all of the teens had been. From my perspective, it seemed like many of them had not been around me at all, but they were still so glad I had been there with them.
Many times we get caught up in what we think we know about ministry. We have seen God work in so many ways that we are tempted to think that we have His plans figured out. It’s nice to know that he continues to sneak in ways to surprise us. After all, I find comfort in knowing that God is big enough to expand His uses of me, of all of us even in our human temptations, small mindedness, and imperfections. So let’s continue to keep ourselves open and out of God’s way so that He can continue to do more than we expect.
– written by Jeremy Stavinoha, former youth minister of St. Anthony’s in Bryan