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Navigating leadership hurdles: Pastoral

February 19, 2018

This is the fourth in a four-part series about three major ministry hurdles and how to address them. Click here for part three.

Sexual sin.
Homosexual feelings.
Suicidal tendencies.

When I first started in ministry 20 years ago, if you were facing one of the above, we sent you off to counseling.

These days, however, pastoral scenarios like these seem to occur weekly. Daily. Hourly.

Sin just does not work and our culture is feeling the effects of their choices.

This is never more apparent than on a college campus where young people are learning to stand on their own in times of testing.

In fact, counseling services on college campuses are overflowing around the country.

One of my friends, the head of counseling for a very notable school, told me recently they had to double their personnel during the 2016-2017 school year!

Thus, every college leader seems to become a defacto counselor.

While there are certain limits to what a student leader should handle in these settings, our goal is to put the weapons and tools in their hands in order to prepare them for the pastoral curveballs coming their way.

So one last time, let’s look at the three grids that we utilize whenever handling a leadership hurdle:

1. Their need

The student needs to know you are a SAFE place and are AVAILABLE.

Let me be clear: pastoral issues are never convenient. So if you’re a high J on the Myers-Briggs, you’re going to have to learn that while certain boundaries are needed in order for a pastor to make it for the long-haul, we can’t start with high walls.

Students need us to be present and willing to make space for them.

2. My approach

My approach to pastoral situations is twofold. First, Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”

My pastor defines gentleness as “just enough pressure to get the job done.”

Sometimes, gentleness is just being there for someone in their pain, while other times it’s giving a loving rebuke to kick them out of their junk.

Second, my rule is to pair an emotionless explanation with the fear of God.

Meaning, when I hear that someone has been looking at homosexual porn and wondering about their sexual orientation, I don’t want to lose it on them. But I also don’t want to make it seem like it doesn’t matter.

I have found that by listening to someone and then saying, “Have you ever wondered why you started to have those feelings? Would you be okay if I shared some ideas with you?”, doors come flying open.

Wrapping up these conversations by showing someone how their life will be destroyed if they continue to follow these patterns is the most loving way I know to apply a hatred of evil (the fear of God).

3. Our plan

When our staff hears of students in these types of battles, our goal is to get them in the presence of God.

Psalm 97:5 says, “The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.”

Whether it’s in various worship settings our church offers or teaching them to spend time with Jesus daily, we know that all of our tools are not going to work unless students learn to take their pain to the presence of God.

Second, we want to get them around testimonies of those who have walked through these battles themselves—and have come to a place of freedom.

During our spring break trip, we had a parent leader share about her battles with bulimia in college.

We were all fighting back tears as she talked about her intense journey towards liberty and how Jesus had delivered her.

Over the course of the next two months, our staff set her up with dozens of young ladies so they could ask their questions, get handrails, and receive the love and inspiration needed to stay free.

It was a game changer because testimonies like these embed hope in this generation!

We will never eradicate all of the pastoral scenarios that come our way. And I suppose that if we were to do ‘round the clock training for our leaders, we would never catch up to the levels of brokenness around us.

So let’s end this four-part series where we started: it is a myth to believe that as the health of your ministry increases, your problems will decrease.

Remember: Health up = People up = Problems up

So do not be discouraged if you’re facing one of these leadership hurdles.

It could be that, just like Isaiah, you’re getting closer to God’s glory and therefore all the junk is getting clearer.

And the good news is this: Whether you’re more geared towards pastoral ministry or not, He has put the Holy Spirit in you and this community around you to give you exactly what you need when you need it.

You are not alone! So don’t be passive. Because “when something feels funky, leaders engage!”