Matt: I admit it; I am a creature of habit. I like things to stay the same. As Steven says, “Matt is not the biggest proponent of change”. I also know that as a Student Ministry Leader, discomfort is one of the ways that God will stretch and grow me in many areas. I need to look at discomfort as a tool to make me a better leader, not as something to shy away from.
Sometimes in student ministry things can get just plain messy. I have 17 guys in my high school small group. It seems like at any given time at least one of them is going through some kind of issue in his life. Some are small problems, but some have been some pretty major issues. I do my best to explain how God will never waste a hurt, and how he uses situations to help grow you. I explain how during bad times we have two choices. We can worry or we can worship.
Discomfort grows me as a leader. It helps me to remember that I don’t have the answers to everything, but I know someone who does. Discomfort makes me want to turn to God for help, to realize that I can’t do this by myself. I need to count on God and the people he has placed in my life. One area I always need work on is timing. I want to fix my students problems, but I forget that its God’s timetable not mine, I’m just the instrument that God is using, but the timing is all up to Him.
Discomfort strengthens my faith. I need to recognize that often times the discomfort in my life is spiritual warfare going on. Satan HATES when we start bringing more and more students to Christ. The more effective we get, the more Satan turns up the heat. That’s when I rely on my faith to get me through hard times. I think of the apostle Paul, in prison, but yet teaching about Christ, and relying on Him for strength.
Discomfort makes me grow. It makes me get out of my spiritual rut. It makes me seek out God even more, it forces me to go deeper in His word in my Bible reading and my quiet times with God. My mother use to say that God made rainy days to help us appreciate the sunny days. For the most part, my life is filled with sunny days, but I forget to be thankful for all that I have in my life; instead I dwell on what’s going wrong. The rainy days in life help me appreciate all the sunny days that God has given me. I want to pass that on to my students.
Steven: I like to take my students out for dinner every week. It’s a great time for me and my co-leader to connect with students one on one, and often times they seem to be completely different people when we get them away from the rest of the group. I think this is when the best ministry happens. Last week we took a guy out who tends to be one of our more…vocal…students. In our thinking, he tends to get louder and more disruptive whenever we’re talking about something serious or a struggle that someone has in their life, so maybe he’s just trying to avoid talking about things like that. When we took him out to dinner we got on the topic of struggles and we told him that this time was a perfect opportunity for him to speak freely without the other 12 guys in the group hearing what he had to say. At first he was very reluctant to go deep and he stuck to the shallow “struggles,” but we tried something that he probably isn’t used to – being uncomfortable.
By not allowing him to escape the conversation through jokes or changing the subject, we forced him to look deeper into his own mind and feelings and really think about the things that were bothering him. He knows these things deep down, but I’ve found that when someone is struggling with something very serious, they bury it so deep that it takes a while to dig back out. In this kid’s case, it was a very emotional family issue that he has been struggling with for years, so it took a while for us to get it out of him. If we had just let it slide and allowed him to change the subject, I know we wouldn’t have gotten down to the root of the issue, but because we got him to step out of his comfort zone, it got real.
When I look back on my own life, I realize that the best moments for my spiritual growth happened when I allowed that discomfort to set in. When I rededicated my life to Christ and I chose to live a different way, it made me uncomfortable at first. Why would I want to change my life when I’m so comfortable with it right now? When I chose to start volunteering with junior high ministry, I was uncomfortable. One of my best friends had to talk me into doing it, but I was still apprehensive about spending all this time with junior highers that, quite frankly, drove me crazy. Looking back, I’m so glad that my friend made me uncomfortable in that time because it changed my life. The bottom line is this: We love the comfortability of the status quo, but if you want to see real change, there has to be some discomfort.
Are you allowing discomfort to change you, or do you shy away from it?