I love having conversations with the volunteers in our student ministry. I like hearing about how they are learning along with the students and feeling like they are really making a difference. Recently, though, I had a conversation with a volunteer that went in a different direction. We began to discuss how easy it is for a minister or ministry volunteer to lose credibility and influence through just one bad decision.
The truth is that it doesn’t take much for our ministry to be derailed on account of our actions. Ministers and ministry volunteers are definitely held to a higher standard than your average Christian and probably with good cause. Ministry influence can be lost through one inappropriate conversation or one poorly thought out facebook post.
We have to actively maintain our integrity at all times, not just for the health of our own souls, but also for the souls of the people we minister to. I have caught myself several times trying to decide if a facebook post would be perceived as appropriate. I have had to change subjects when students ask particularly probing questions about movies I have seen or music I listen to. One of the major elements of our jobs is to be an example to those we minister to.
I hear a lot of stories of youth ministers who are in trouble all of the time because they lacked discernment in certain areas of their lives. This is frustrating because youth workers need to have people’s confidence in order for them to maximize their impact. When we do something that takes away from our good example, we lose the trust of our constituents including the church staff, parents, and students wise enough to be disappointed.
As youth workers we want to be positive examples, mentors, and role models. And with that comes a huge responsibility. This does not mean that we cannot ever make a mistake, but it does mean that we need to enhance our discernment so as to minimize the mistakes we make that harm the ministry.