Many of us grew up with the chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
I used to believe the person that coined the phrase was an idiot.
Words can hurt—sometimes worse than broken bones.
But the longer I lead in ministry, the more I realize there is truth to this well-known phrase.
“What do I do when the former youth pastor is still attending our church?”
I get this question from time to time and have actually had to work in this environment in both of the churches I’ve served in over the past 20 years.
Sometimes the former youth pastor takes a promotion and ends up a worship pastor or the director of a regional campus. Maybe they were a key volunteer holding together the ministry during transition until you stepped into the role.
In larger churches, he or she might have been promoted to the student ministries pastor and you take over a junior high or high school ministry. In any case, contending with the former head of a youth ministry you are now charged to lead can be unsettling, challenging or even painful.
When it comes to work ethic, I was raised in the old-school by a West Texas dad who felt it was his parental duty to teach the next generation the value of minimum wage, back-breaking, manual labor.
The first job he arranged for me was digging ditches. That’s right, my dad secured my brother and I summer jobs as ditch-diggers, installing underground telephone cables ten hours a day in the 100-degree Mississippi heat for $1.65 an hour.
Since I complained so much about the heat, the next summer he got me an indoor job. So I spent that summer inside an UN-air conditioned warehouse loading 50-pound fertilizer bags onto pallets. During our breaks we would go outside to cool off. The inside of that warehouse was hotter than outside.
Anytime we exalt the men of God above the God of men, the church has been charmed. I thoroughly and wholeheartedly believe in honoring deserving men and women of God. This is right and well pleasing in the sight of the Lord. Paul instructs us in the Book of Romans to give honor where honor is due. Quite honestly, honor is a rare commodity in many Christian circles nowadays. We would do well if we practiced giving honor to those who merit it more. But trouble is on the horizon when we exalt our leaders as if they are Gods and give glory to them that is due the Lord. Men can and should be honored, but they must never be worshipped.
A friend of mine just lost his job. He’s in his 50s with two kids in college, and he’s worried. Another friend just laid off a large number of employees. And a surprising number of recent college graduates that I know are not landing jobs.
That’s a negative headline—but it’s a true headline. There are some job openings, people are getting hired, and there is hope! But we must admit it’s tough out there right now.
I talk with pastors around the country every week and “church finance” is all over the place. Some churches are doing well financially, and many are not. Few are just holding steady, it’s more like holding on.
We have all heard it said that our priorities should be:
But what if your work is ministry? You are working for God—does that make a difference? In your list of priorities, does ministry equal God—and therefore trump family? Amazingly, many people think so.
A Sad Beginning
I remember a concerned young lady coming to me after class while I was teaching at a Bible school. Her fiancé, John*, was one of the more “on fire” students. Everyone loved him. He had a big heart and was a fearless evangelist.