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Correct and Instruct

My 8-year old is playing basketball in two different leagues this season. No, it’s not because he’s a phenom and needs the work. It’s because my wife and I didn’t communicate well enough and we each signed him up for a different league. But we’re basketball people, so we love that he gets the extra time on the court.

As he’s learning to play the game, he’s figuring out that the way he played as a 6- or 7-year old won’t fly in his new leagues. In one game recently, he had the ball in three straight trips down the floor. And three straight times he was called for traveling. One time, he was fine. Twice, he was a little annoyed. The third time though, he was visibly frustrated and embarrassed. I was frustrated too, but not at him. I knew the referee, so I yelled, “Wes, can you at least explain why you’re calling it? He doesn’t understand what he’s doing wrong!”

We do what we can in practice, but in a game situation, at that age level, the referees need to serve as instructors and not just arbiters of the rules, calling violations and then moving along.

As a youth pastor, I have to be careful to do that as well. I see my students make poor decisions. I seem them post things they shouldn’t. I know when they’re in detention. I see them in the community doing things they shouldn’t. But I can’t just blow my whistle and say, “You’re doing something wrong!” I need to take the extra time to walk them through what it means to follow Christ at all times and explain how to honor Him with our lives. I need to not only correct, but also instruct.

Paul did that in his letter to the Ephesians. He didn’t just call them out for their sin, he taught them what it looked like to imitate Christ (Ephesians 5:1). It takes more time. It slows the game down. It demands more of us to invest that time in our students. But it is what is required of us.

Let’s not just call fouls. Let’s walk with our students and teach them what it means to imitate Christ. Let’s correct and instruct. The effort we spend is well worth it.

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Other Duties as Assigned

I’ve watched our senior pastor handle a lot of tasks that one would expect of a senior pastor: preaching, teaching, counseling, fundraising, grief care, church leadership, etc. But I remember one particular job he did that threw me for a loop. Soon after I arrived, I was working in our youth area when he came down the hall with a plunger. He disappeared into one of our bathrooms and came out a few minutes later with his sleeves rolled up and his normally-pristine hair thrown askew.

Turns out this was a regular task for him each week. He knew the building. He knew the problems associated with it. He knew the unseen needs associated with it. And even though it wasn’t in his job description, even though he had advanced degrees and dressed the part of the senior pastor, he did what needed to be done and received zero recognition for it.

This year, my job has leaned heavily on that cryptic line in every job description: other duties as assigned. I’m still doing youth ministry. I’m still writing sermons and working with small groups. I’m still recruiting and training volunteers. But since change has come to the way we’re doing church, I’ve added a few things to that list. I’m the live-stream director for Sunday mornings because I did a lot of troubleshooting last spring in our student ministry. I record, edit, and publish a lot more video content throughout the week. I help provide vision for the church and help our pastor bring his vision for the whole church to life. The scope of my ministry has broadened because of those “other duties as assigned.”

I know I’m not alone in this. Most churches don’t have so many staff members that everyone can stay in their lane. We’re all doing more than our search committee hired us to do. And since so much of that work is behind the scenes, I struggle to do that work without recognition. I often have to return to Jesus’ warning in Matthew 6.

Be encouraged that the God of the universe sees the work you’re doing, even if the 55+ ministry isn’t seeing it. Know that there is a reward for your work, even if the reward doesn’t come from the finance committee. And if you’re struggling with this, let us know in the comments so we can pray with you that you’ll feel the presence of God while you’re plunging toilets or rewiring the network or repairing the ping pong tables, or working through one of those “other duties as assigned.”