The Christian world is beginning to panic. Not only are young people rejecting the Church, but the number of young people going into professional ministry has dropped significantly. We at Teach One Reach One Ministries believe things can actually be better in the future, if we are willing to make some significant changes in how children and teens are parented and how they are ministered to by the church. It’s the very reason for our existence.
One thing that needs to change is how we teach young people about ministry. There is frankly a lot of toxicity in the way ministry is currently managed. In fact, it’s one of the reasons young people are no longer interested in it as a career. Which is fine if we involve them in a new, and hopefully, healthier model of ministry.
In order to do that, we need to dispel some common myths about ministry.
- Only certain people are called to ministry. The truth is that God expects every Christian to live a life of ministering to others and sharing his or her faith. God may indeed have certain specific good works in ministry He has planned for certain people, but He also expects every Christian to live a life of ministry.
- Ministry is a career choice. Yes, full time ministry is a career option, but just like the Apostle Paul was also a tent maker to pay the bills, young people can participate in vocational ministry, whatever their chosen career.
- Ministers work in a church building. Actually, the most effective ministers are rarely in the building. They go where people need help and to learn about God. Young people can minister to others anywhere and everywhere.
- It’s wrong to do ministry/mission work in other countries. This mistaken belief comes from a popular Christian book many read a few years ago. Yes, some toxic things have been done during mission work in other countries, but there is an incredible need for people willing to do mission work – short or long term – in the U.S. and in other places. Christians often provide things like healthcare and education that aren’t available in many parts of the world. It can, and should, be done mindfully, however, so that helping doesn’t hurt the people they have travelled to serve.
- Ministers are paid to do all of the work, so I don’t have to do it. Most church leaders and ministers view paid staff roles as assessing needs, planning activities and managing volunteers – even if it’s not always executed well. God expects all Christians to do the “work of the Church”, not just paid staff.
- Ministers are/should be infallible. Ministers are just regular people. They make mistakes and sin. They can have bad motives or bad ideas. In fact, many ministers are taught to hide their weaknesses, because many Christians do believe they should be infallible. This leaves them vulnerable to sin, because they haven’t been vulnerable enough to other Christians to get the help, encouragement and accountability they need to avoid sinning. Which is also why so many are eventually ousted for having enmeshed sin in their lives.
- God made ministers the bosses of everyone else. Once again, many elderships have allowed this to happen and it can cause a toxic environment in the church. Elders are overseers of ministers, just like everyone else in the congregation. But elders and ministers alike are to view themselves as servant leaders, not bosses and certainly not as authoritarian dictators. Those who do think of themselves as the boss, often find themselves enmeshed in pride and other sins.
- Ministers don’t have feelings. Ministers are human. They can have feelings that are hurt by harsh criticism. They get lonely and feel isolated. They get confused and have doubts from time to time. They can feel anger, joy and sadness. Young people need to understand that their emotions don’t disqualify them from ministering to others. It’s learning how to manage those emotions in godly ways that they need to learn and practice to be effective in ministry.
- God can’t use someone like me in ministry. Often this is said by young people who haven’t discovered their talents yet, or who have but believe their talents aren’t ones needed by God. Young people need to understand that God gave them the talents He did specifically for serving Him, most often by ministering to others. They may need help with gift discovery or in brainstorming ways to use their talents to serve God to fully understand how God wants them to serve.
The Church won’t have a lack of ministers issue when it embraces the idea that every Christian is a minister… and when Church leadership makes it clear that the expectation is that everyone participates fully in ministry. It may be too late for the older generations in our churches to change, but we can start the younger generations on this new ministry model. Explaining these myths is a great way to start!