Youth Ministry Heartburn

My friend heartburn and I have been hanging out a lot lately. He (or she...I definitely don't want to discriminate here :) hasn't been the nicest friend because he causes me to want to rip my esophagus out from time to time and makes me wonder if I'm capable of surviving another night bout. Regardless, this amazing and awful thing called heartburn that's been induced by nearly nine months of pregnancy, has reminded me of a few things:

1) There's a reason I have heartburn. I'm expecting a child. There's no room in the inn this December and my body is letting me know it. While it's painful and caused me to down numerous bottles of Tums, I know it's there for a good reason. It keeps me expectant for the new life that's to come.

2)Heartburn can be alleviated when I pay attention to what I eat. Or, more importantly, what I stay away from. Why can't I stop eating french fries with vinegar all over them? (Maybe because they taste so good, but that's for another blog.)

3) Heartburn makes us want take action. Tums, small meals, tums, water, more tums...

And isn't it the same in ministry?

We get ministry heartburn when our students grieve. We get it when we've got too much on our plates. We get it when we've said "yes" to much and "no" too little.

So what's the parallel when I'm aching in ministry I know there's a reason? I look for the reason. I ask questions. I try to find out what on earth is causing the pain. Often, the pain comes because we are in a constant state of expectation. We expect changed lives. We have faith that God will do what God promised and use our lives as living sacrifices. We get bummed when ministry doesn't produce fruit or we feel like we've dropped the ball somehow. We know that the burn comes when we're in the thick of investment--in the thick of lives--in the thick of the mess that is life.

There's also a season when we need rest from ministry heartburn. We need to alleviate some of the struggle, to do and be less. The alleviation comes for me when I focus in and do some things really well and find contentment that I can't do it all.

When ministry heartburn is there, it moves us to action. It asks us to do something. What is it that your ministry is calling you to do? We all could use antacids at that annual lock-in, but what is it that really satisfies you and gives you peace in ministry? Do that. Focus in. Feel the burn but then allow it to remind you why it's there and what you can do to respond to it.

I don't plan on having physical heartburn for much longer, but in a way, I'm thankful for it's constant presence in my life over the past nine months. I hope the ministry burn comes and goes to keep me fresh, passionate, and committed to the teenagers and families God has led us to.

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