When The Moments Aren't Instagram Worthy
(Disclaimer: Before you read, please know I am not saying that ministry should be defined by what is “Instagram Worthy” and what isn’t. Our ministries are so much more that what is posted on social media. However, since we live in a world where so much is documented on Instagram, Facebook, etc., I thought this would be an interesting way to look at dealing with the tough, “not-so-picture-perfect”, real life side of ministry. Please don’t come after me with pitch forks thinking that I am only concerned about posting pictures. Because I am not…and I don’t run very fast.)
A few weeks ago, we had a pretty solid Wednesday night in our youth group. We hosted a game night with a nearby church that included team-building games, messy games, get-to-know-you games, and it all ended with a foot-washing, a devotion on being a servant, and me getting a pie in my face. (I promise, all of that was connected and went together.) It was an awesome night and I remember being so thankful that God had allowed us to have such an incredible time together.
In addition to having a great time with my students, I posted the pictures and videos of everything that we did on Instagram to share them. This is something I do pretty often. I believe that if God has given me a great idea, why not share it with others so that they can try it out? Also, I tend to share other moments that I deem “Instagram Worthy”—when I take a selfie with one of the sweet girls in my group or when one of my middle schoolers does something hilarious. Those are the things that I get so excited to post. I’m sure you can relate.
But…what about those things that aren’t worthy of your Instagram Story?
Like when you tried to teach and that eighth grader in the back row wouldn’t stop talking?
Or nmaybe you had a great idea that completely bombed?
What about that time you had to have a difficult conversation with a high schooler that ended in them leaving the youth group?
Or perhaps you had a moment where you let your flesh rise up and you told your youth group to stop acting like monkeys? (Wait, maybe that one was just me…)
When those things happen, it’s easy to want to hide away and not tell anyone about them. When it comes to sharing on social media we only seem to highlight our successes, not our failures. However, today I would like to offer you some encouragement—something that I still have to remind myself of when I am to ashamed to tell anyone about what went wrong during our programming.
Here are some tips when dealing with those difficult "Non-Instagram-Worthy Moments":
1. Take Your Eyes off of the Problem. When those tough times happen, it’s easy to sit and dwell on them. But doing this only makes us angrier and more discouraged. For me personally, I will think and think and think and think and think some more until I have looked at the problem from every possible angle. I have yet to see this help make matters better. What does make things a little more bearable, though, is taking my eyes off of what’s frustrating me and looking to Jesus instead. In 1 Peter chapter 5, we are told to cast all of our cares on God because He cares for us--yes, those trying days in youth ministry count. Rather than focusing on them until we’ve made ourselves feel like complete failures, why not give them to the One who is willing to take those burdens from us and comfort us?
2. Talk it Out. After I’ve had a rough night or a stressful Sunday morning, I find a trusted source to talk it over with. Most of the time it’s a fellow youth leader. Sure, there are times when I vent to friends that don’t work in student ministry, but there’s just something about chatting with a person who knows exactly what you’re dealing with. Somebody that understands trying to lead a Bible Study full of rambunctious middle schoolers. Usually when I do this, I realize that I’m not the only one facing frustrating student ministry trials. I see that no ministry is picture perfect and that every youth group has its woes.
3. Share the Bad Stuff, Too. You read that right. When an idea fails or an event goes so badly that there is not a filter strong enough to fix it, post it anyway. Be transparent and share that failure. Be honest and let others know that your ministry isn’t perfect—that YOU aren’t perfect. Yes, this helps you, but it helps others as well. It shows that there is a messy side to ministry that doesn’t always look good, and that’s alright. Be brave and share not just your highs, but your lows.
Wouldn’t it be nice if ministry was always picture perfect and ready for posting? Too bad it’s not. But even when it isn’t, know that it’s alright. You’re still doing a great job and you are certainly not defined by how many awesome posts you have on your feed. God is still using you, and trust that He is doing just that even through the moments that are not Instagram Worthy.
You got this.