Who carries your burden?

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

The Joys of Transparency We had the most amazing time at summer camp this year! For the first time ever we were able to be truly deep and authentic with one another. On Thursday night, "Cry Night", the speaker talked about bearing with one another, carrying each other's burdens. And after his moving talk, he sent us back to our cabins to share burdens with one another. Normally I just facilitate this sort of conversation, but I was really feeling the Holy Spirit move and decided to go first to set the tone.

I knew I was really connecting with the students because for the first time in a long time they were really listening to me. The more they leaned in, the more I shared, and the more I shared, the more I realized I had to share.

It all began quite surfacey, with me sharing about how stressed I was feeling trying to juggle this job and my family. Then I decided to get a little more specific.

"My boss doesn't think I am doing a good enough job because our numbers are down this year. And because of that I have been working so much that I am becoming more and more disconnected from my wife. My boss, our pastor, is not just a tough boss, but a total jerk. I know he seems great on Sunday mornings, but working for him is a nightmare. In fact I don't even know how much more I can take working in this environment. On top of our pastor sucking and sucking the life from me, my wife seems to only nag and complain. She says that I am not around enough, I am always hanging out with students, and she not only resents me because of it, but resents you too. There is so much resentment that we haven't even had sex for months. This has lead me to become addicted to internet porn and gambling. I don't know if we need to go to counseling or what. And to top it all off, this stress combined with my sin is impacting my faith. I can't remember the last time I had a quiet time. And really, ever since my son has been sick, I have been pissed at God for abandoning me and jacking my life, my marriage, and my job. Really, what am I doing anyway?!"

For being middle school boys, they took all of this really well.

Where Do You Go? I hope you could tell this conversation was make-believe. Because the truth is that I would never share any of this with middle school boys, and I would for sure never share this on a blog.

While this conversation is fake, the issues are real among many ministry leaders. Because ministry leaders are also broken people, issues will arise that will test the faith, ministires, and marriages of people in ministry. The real question is not how to prevent these issues from arising, but, "Where do I go when the bottom starts to fall out in my job, my marriage, or my faith?" This is a question of vital importance for me and, I think, for anyone who wants to make it in ministry for the long term.

Just because we're ministry leaders does not mean that we're above the dark underbelly of life and faith. The danger is that if we do not have an appropriate outlet for these issues we actually end up developing split personalities, and before long become straight-up hypocrites. With so much on the line, where do you go to work this out? Who are your people?

As I've tried to work this out in my own life, I have realized my pastor / boss isn't the right person, my spouse isn't always the right person, my friends in the church aren't the right people, and for sure my students are never the right people to lay my burdens on. There is one place I have landed, where I have found friends who I can share my burden with. These friends have all come from my ministry network meetings.

Thank God For My Network: In some seasons these were people from my local network. But in this season they are from my denominational clusters. No matter which network you grab your people from, your network is your best bet for some authentic living and burden sharing. Who else gets the joys and sorrows, the stress and anxiety of youth ministry than others who are right in the middle of it?

As I get ready to head off to an annual retreat for youth workers in my conference, I realize that I'm about to spend time with my people. People who get me, get my ministry, true colleagues. What makes this time the most valuable for me is that I am with people who can bear my burdens or whose burdens I may have the honor to bear.

My prayer for you is that you find some colleagues who you can be real with and lay it down with, people who you would trust to carry your burdens. If these people are not in your life, then at some point there will be a straw that will break your back and crush your life, your family, your ministry, or all three. May God bless you as your share your burdens, and may God continue to be gracious as we work all this out.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

If you are a part of the Evangelical Covenant Church and would like to be connected to a local youth ministry network, click here and contact the facilitator for your area.

Let's be honest about every guys "struggle."

20120830-154326.jpg Not your typical gathering of High School Guys:

Last night we had our Manly Mecca kick off! The Manly Mecca is like the men’s ministry to our youth group. It is a gathering of high school guys that meets once a month on a Friday Night. During this time we have one of the guys share their testimonies, do some sort of adventure, and then pass around the “whack jar.”

The concept of this gathering, the testimonies, and the adventures is something I have written about here: It is the “whack jar” portion of the evening I wanted to share with you in this post. In a similar vein to the “sear jar” the “whacky jar” is a jar that students (and leaders) pay into every time they whack off. I am not sure what the correct term for your context is, but this is what we call it. My strongest kids pay only a couple of bucks, and the horniest drop $20. Everyone still divides by 5 or so, but everyone owns up to their struggle and their attempt at victory So once a month we gather and goof off, talk about deep things, and hold each other accountable in our pursuit of sexual purity.

You might be asking yourself, isn’t there shame in this sort of public confession? The answer is yes. For all the joking around there is about it and for the assumption that they all struggle with it, there is something awful about owning publicly how much you actually struggle with it. But because of the total ethos of our ministry it works. And we have made one significant change in how we approach sexual purity, masturbation, and porn that has dramatically altered the course of the conversation. It is this one simple assumption:

EVERY HIGH SCHOOL GUY WHACKS OFF!

I have been so comfortable for so long couching this conversation in “struggling.” This is like some weak sauce way of saying, “I try really hard to not whack off.” But the actual confession of and honesty to the frequency of, and the grace for those in the middle of this gets left behind. So, with one fell swoop we stopped saying that we struggle with lust and own the fact that all high school guys whack off.

If we can own this reality than we can move our ministries away from simply sin management to actual freedom and healing. It is a crime to simply try to get our boys to lock it down, we need to actually talk about pornography in Youth Ministry. If we admitted that whacking off is simply a symptom of our sin and brokenness, then we can be more honest about where the problem really is.

When we have these conversations with our guys all the sudden I move from students admitting to “struggling with lust” to owning their loneliness, boredom, apathy, insecurities, stress, etc. And when we help our students understand they why they give into whacking off, then they can actually find healing and hopefully move past this habit.

Because we are honest with the reality of the role masturbation plays in the life of our high school guys, we are able to use prayer and the spirit of God to heal the root causes, and the playful shame of the whack jar to help them change their habits.

As we start our new year and ask our young men to pursue sexual purity what if we lead them in this by molding it for them. Here are three things that we can model in our own lives:

1) Get an accountability partner. Many of us have had these guys in our past but as we have gotten older felt like it was some sort of admition to failure by continuing these relationships. Get over yourselves and realize how high the stakes are. Get someone in your life who you can confess your sin to, who will pray for you and help you walk the straight an narrow.

2) Deal with the root cause. We have spent our entire lives trying to manage this sin. Let us get in touch with the Holy Spirit and ask that the God would reveal to us the reasons we wrestle, the triggers that cause us to fail. Some of it is lame habit, but some of it is much deeper. It is time to grow up and model spiritual humility and transformation. Is it loneliness, insecurities, fear of rejection, issues in your marriage, who knows. God does, let God have access to these subterranean issues and be willing to share this process with your students. They need a model of someone who is continually working out their faith and continually pursuing holiness, and making space for God to mold and transform them.

3) Give up some of your freedom. Gone are the days where a simple internet blocker or XXXchurch software on the family computer in the living room prevents us from jumping down the black hole. Our phone is the gateway to porn for just about every guy I know. If this is the case, lock it down. You don’t even have to give up your phone, just a few minor inconvincests. Ask your accountability partner to turn off Safari, YouTube, and any 17+ apps. Did you know that any browser can get you in trouble on line? (of course you did) So for the sake of your job, the ministry you have to students, and for your very own walk with Jesus, give up your freedom of the internet on your phone and wait til you get home or ask someone near you about googling some random fact. You will not miss it.

Ok, I hope that wasn’t too awkward. We must be honest with where are students are really at so we can actually help them move forward in their walk with Jesus and get a handle on their habitual sin. And maybe we could use a little more honesty with our “struggle” so we too can be the godly men that we have been called to be!

Grace and Peace!

This post was originally posted at youthmin.org