Fighting Discouragement in YTH Ministry

Photo by  Sydney Sims

Photo by Sydney Sims

d i s c o u r a g e m e n t - ‘a loss of confidence or enthusiasm; dispiritedness, downheartedness, demoralization’

It will happen to all of us. In some form or another. At a level that is easily dealt with, or, a level that paralyzes us. But one thing for sure - discouragement will happen to all of us.

We are dealing with discouragement in this post because there are many who have been affected by this. I have spoken to several leaders and students lately who have been dealing with this in their lives and in the ministry.

Discouragement is natural in many ways. It is not solely based on external circumstances such as bad news, broken dreams, or relationships that do not work out. Depression could stem from internal circumstances also. It could be affected by wellness, sleep, nutrition, or physical fitness. Often times it could be something very simple that causes discouragement.

Here are 7 ways to fight discouragement:

1. Personal disciplines

The first part of this point is natural disciplines.

Let me come at this from a different angle for a minute. We are all so driven to produce. To succeed. But, we must stop the over-emphasis on organizational leadership development and the under-emphasis of personal leadership development.

Look at the books we are reading. Are we spending as much time on our SPIRITUAL leadership development that we are on our NATURAL leadership development?

Over-emphasizing natural leadership cause a production mentality that is more about my work - and not God’s work. And this can lead to discouragement if we are not producing. But a balance of the natural and the spiritual is a grace effort in YTH Ministry.

The second part of this principle is spiritual discipline.

This would include prayer, reading, fasting, worship, giving, simplicity, or even gratitude. These are critical to our spiritual health. Spiritual disciplines are the weapons we can use to combat against discouragement. We have posted on this many times on the blog so you can search this topic and get a lot of practical help on how to do these things.

2. Comparison kills
It can be a fine line between following different people and their model of ministry, and, comparing our outcomes with theirs. Make sure that you are watching others for the right reasons.

I have often watched other leaders for the purpose of education and inspiration. But do not watch other leaders for the purpose of evaluation.

Learning this principle as quickly as possible is a game-changer. Only compare yourself to what God has called you to do. Not what God is called others to do.

3. Wellness
Our physiology is also a critical piece to our spirituality. We must take care of our self physically, mentally, emotionally, and relationally. This includes sleep, eating, exercise, and emotional support. Our attitude and energy is affected by wellness.

Maybe we are asking our body and our spirit to do what it cannot do because we are physically and emotionally unhealthy.

Sometimes our discouragement is a result of our lack of health. It could be a chemical imbalance, a sleep deprivation, or even broken relationships. Each of the affects of these things can be lessened with good counseling, a great nights sleep, and maintaining healthy relationships.

4. Solving problems
Sometimes it is too easy to see the problems and make them bigger than they are because we are not focusing upon solutions. We must bring balance and perspective into every situation. Learn to solve problems and not allow them to get worse. Stop thinking it will go away.

Remember, nothing is as bad as it looks or as good as it looks.

I am convinced that the reason why many YTH Leaders leave their organization is not simply because of opportunities, finances, staff issues, or God calling them to another assignment. I think that many of these leaders leave because they cannot solve problems. And solving problems is a rush of adrenaline.

5. Influence versus attendance
Some of us are more worried about attendance than we are people. I truly believe that teens will run to a place of unconditional love. They cannot get it outside of Christ. Their families, their friends, and their society love them with conditions. But not Christ.

Ok, think about it this way: your personal influence has everything to do with your public attendance. We need to think more about influencing INDIVIDUALS and not just GROUPS. If we could influence individuals we would see the group grow.

And yet, on the other hand, stop worrying about attendance. See, there are two parts of the YTH Group - the attendance and the roster. Some of us focus all of our efforts on the attendance in the YTH Service or the YTH Event. And we are forgetting the mass of students on the roster. Those students who call the Church their home but they just don’t come every week.

I can double your YTH Group during this blog. Don’t count the attendance. Count your influence. Don’t tell people that you are ‘running around 25’. Because you probably have 60 on the roster (go ahead and try me - count it now). And you are responsible and leading every one of those 60 students/leaders on the roster.

6. Set attainable goals
Unreachable goals can cause discouragement. Set goals that are reachable. Most of us have the ‘stadium dream’ or the ‘world-changer’ mentality. But what about the ‘YTH room dream’ and the ‘campus-changer’ mentality? Because winning the room and the campus comes before winning the stadium and the world.

Instead of evaluating our ministry on how well we reach the big goals, the evaluation of our ministry should be incremental - how well reach all of our goals.

Wins can lift personal attitude and influence organizational momentum. This is really the principle of sowing and reaping. If you are sowing simple tasks and seeds you will reap results. And results defeat discouragement every time.

7. A mentor
An experienced mentor or coach will help you to see through all of this. We should all be lifelong learners. And that means we have a teacher in our life. A Yoda who will speak the truth in certain terms. Or an editor who cuts certain words or scenes from our life.

If we want to go where we have never gone and do what we have never done, we must follow someone who has been there and done it.

Paul talked about this kind of relationship often. In Romans 1 he wrote to his brothers in Rome and told them that he could not wait to be with them so that he ‘could be encouraged together with them by their mutual faith.’

Finally

You are not alone. We all go through discouragement. And if you will understand that discouragement will come to all of us, it will be easier to respond to it when it arrives. Put a plan together that carries you through discouragement. Each of these 7 principles will bring encouragement.

One last thing. I love to keep a file of the letters and DM‘s that students have given me over the years. And when I need to, I pull this out or I go through my DM’s and read. And remember that I really am okay afterall.

Jeff Grenell