I’m a passionate person, I love with all my heart and dive head first into everything I do. It’s what makes me a good youth leader and church volunteer, I love the girls I disciple, I give with all my heart and I am all in. However loving with all my heart puts me in jeopardy of having my heart-broken on almost a weekly basis. I mean if you’re all in for the teens you work with and love them with everything you have, you are bound to get hurt. When I’ve asked others for advice I hear the same thing over and over again, “Don’t take it personally.”
But that makes no sense to me. How can I passionately pursue the call on my life to love teenagers, tell them about Christ and personally invest in their lives, and then flip the switch and not take it personally when someone hurts me? Every book on discipleship and every training session I have had at a church, I’ve been taught to give my all, to be “all in” for the teens I disciple. Taking it personally is what God called me to do. God put an ache in my heart for lost teenagers, and put a personal call on my life to pursue teens for God’s kingdom. Yet if I am criticized or hurt, I can’t take it personal? That is a major contradiction.
In the decade plus that I have been serving in youth ministry I have learned that it’s ok to take it personally, it’s how you react that will either strengthen you and your ministry or cause you to be on a collision course to burn out.
It’s not fun when you get criticized by others, you give your time, energy, love and a lot of the time your money to pour into the lives of teenagers in your church. And yet there is always someone who says you’re not doing it right or it could be done better. A lot of the time our first reaction is to say, “Oh, yeah, then you do it!”. You always have a choice, you can get upset and lash out at those people and sometimes you even lash out at your self. Or you can use that criticism as a way to look over your ministry, see if you need to refine something. We are always learning and growing, no ministry is perfect and we can always use a little freshening up. But if you don’t “take it personal” you will always think things are perfect and may never change and grow. Use criticism as a time to give yourself and your ministry a report card. Look over things and see if there needs to be change. If everything is working well, then that’s great. But you may find an area that needs work, that you may not have seen if the critic hadn’t said something.
When you get criticized use it to strengthen your ministry, not to cause you question why you’re doing what you’re doing. If God called you, then He wants you there.
One of the hardest things about ministry is loving people and having them break your heart. This is a huge struggle for me. I am very tender-hearted and love unconditionally. Which puts me in a place to get hurt and boy have I been hurt. Now again you have a choice, you can either strike back and hurt the person who hurt you, which will quickly push you out of ministry. Or you can realize that people have NO idea how much you care, how much you give up and how deeply you love them. So when they say something stupid or push you away they have no idea how much that can hurt you.
Taking it personally and using your hurt to teach about forgiveness and love is a great way to help them learn and to help you heal. Also having a prayer partner that you can talk to about ministry and the struggles that come with it, helps a lot. Having someone who you can tell your hurt to and who will understand and give you sound council, will help you to see things in perceptive and they will be praying for you. Lashing out at the people who criticize you or hurt you will only cause you to burn out and lose momentum.
Another down fall we get caught up in is taking that hurt and hurting ourselves. Satan is the master liar. He wants to take the hurt you may be feeling and turn it into something that hurts you spiritually, make you question God and yourself. If Satan can take your hurt and make you walk away from your call in life, he wins. Satan is truly afraid of you and what you are doing in peoples lives. Don’t let him have control over your hurt. You have control! Instead of taking it personally and staying hurt, which only hurts yourself. Take it personally and grow, learn and strengthen your ministry and your walk with Christ.
The Key is to take that criticism and hurt and use it. Satan wants to stop you from telling others about Christ and can use criticism and hurt to cause you to walk away from ministry. Don’t let him! Take that hurt and use it to teach and grow.
Changing my perspective on how I take things personally has helped me immensely. Five years ago I was ready to walk away from youth ministry all together because someone hurt me. Thank God I didn’t. Because I wouldn’t know the girls I know today and I wouldn’t be leading teens to Christ. I’m a better leader and a better disciple maker because I take it personally and use it to glorify God.