Difficult times in ministry

Just this week, I spoke at the Fall Kickoff on our need to have reminders and memorials set up to help us remember what God has done in the past. I talked about the time, in Joshua 4, where God told Joshua to take 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan and place them as a memorial. Every time someone would ask what the stones were for, the Israelites were to tell them about how God dried up the Jordan and the people crossed on dry ground. The stones were meant to be a visual reminder of God’s faithfulness.

Just two days later, a student I know from a past ministry (and who just received Christ as Lord and Savior six months ago) died from a 4-wheeler accident. This is the 3rd death, all teens and young adults, in the last year in this community. The students are hurting, confused, angry, or numb. It is difficult enough to experience the loss of a friend while in school, but it is even more difficult when it happens multiple times. Some of these students lost another classmate while in elementary school, too.

It is during these difficult times that we need to be reminded of God’s ultimate love and faithfulness. But how do we remember the times in which God spared a person’s life and kept people safe when the outcome “should” have been different? As a caring adult (youth worker) you cannot start a conversation with a hurting student by telling them to cheer up and remember the good times. That is not good counseling and will probably not help the student. No, one of the best things you can do during difficult times is to simply be present. Listen to the students. And pray with and for them.

As I type this post and think about the community going through this difficult time, I have mostly questions and few answers.

  1. What will it look like for the community to come together during this time?
  2. What will be different if this happens again?
  3. As a youth minister, am I prepared for a situation like this? Do I know counselors in the area? Do I know counseling basics? Do I have a relationship with the school, in order to offer help?
  4. How do you get students to already have those “memorial reminders” in place, so they can turn to them during times of tragedy?

How have you handled difficult times in ministry?


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