Dear Youth Minister, You Need Help. Ask For It.
I will never forget the day my mom came home from my sixth grade parent-teacher conference. Because I was a massive suck-up, these usually were not a source of worry for either of us. However, after this particular one, she told me that my social studies teacher said I asked too many questions and asked for help before I tried to find the solution myself. At the time, this confused me. Isn’t that the whole point of a teacher? I thought. Someone to help me whenever I need?
Fast forward to young adulthood, and I totally see where my teacher was coming from. When it comes to the everyday challenges of life, I have never been one to shy away from asking for help if means an easier load for me. From calculating mental math to lifting heavy objects, I will be the first to ask for a helping hand to avoid taking the entire struggle on myself. While this may not seem so bad, it often means I take advantage of others’ time and talents before considering how I can use my own when faced with a problem.
Asking for help with life’s larger challenges is a different story. Admitting my true helplessness without the grace of Jesus comes far less easily than asking for help with filing my taxes. Maybe the same is true of you. Crying out for help out of our true desperation means accepting the finitude of our flesh. It requires a humbling to seek the Lord’s aid when we have run out of ways to help ourselves. It is therefore often unpleasant and difficult to do. Still, asking for help is not only biblical, but also an essential tool in developing our ministries. Above all, it offers us an opportunity to see the total sufficiency of our true Helper.
Asking for Help is Biblical.
A simple word search of “help” in the Bible yields 221 results. Paul continually asked for prayers from his partners in ministry and even pleaded with the Lord that the “thorn” would be removed from his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8). Jesus himself cried out to his Father to deliver him from his inevitable crucifixion and death (Matthew 26:42). In the Old Testament, the Psalms offer a beautiful picture of what it looks like to cry to the Lord for help. Consider David’s desperation in Psalm 18:
The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me
In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
The Psalmist does not hide his distress. He is open and honest about the anguish of his current desperation. Yet, he knows where to bring his plea – to his God, whom he trusts will hear his cries. This is the same God of whom David sings:
he drew me out of many waters.
He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me….
He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.”
When David recognizes his enemies are too mighty for Him, he turns to the One who promises to offer him sufficient aid in his distress. How will God show His full sufficiency and power until we, too, cry out in admission of our helplessness? It is only when we learn to cry along with Job: “Have I any help in me, when resource is driven from me?” (Job 6:13) that God can reveal the power of His Spirit within us. Our helplessness drives us into the ever-open arms of our Helper.
Asking for Help is Essential.
In ministry, it is not only a wise practice to cry out to the Lord, our true Helper, but it is also essential to learn to ask for help from our wiser and more seasoned mentors, bosses, and friends.
My first year of ministry was marked by confusion and difficulty. Nine times out of ten, I had no clue what I was supposed to be doing. In my pride, however, I never truly reached out for help or guidance. With an “I’ve got this” mentality, I faked it decently until sure enough, I hit a breaking point about mid year. When a casual meeting with my pastor/boss ended in a complete come-apart about how truly lost I felt, I realized that I had done myself no favors going many months without asking for help.
My desperation mirrored David’s in Psalm 18. In this moment of weakness, my boss offered me the true help and direction that I so desperately needed. His guidance and pastoral care were invaluable to me as we walked through several challenges in ministry.
Had it not been for my spontaneous breakdown, who knows how long I would have continued in my prideful silence before asking for help? I would encourage any new (and old!) youth ministers to consider the areas in your own ministry where you are struggling. Allow the Lord to reveal to you the people who can offer not only practical but pastoral help. Perhaps take time to formulate specific questions that you and your boss or mentor can address together, providing effective direction for your meeting.
Asking for help will mean coming to terms with your own finitude and inability, indeed. But it will ultimately lead to deeper encouragement and to an encounter with the greatest Helper of all.
Shortly before Jesus left his disciples prior to his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, he offered them a beautiful promise. He assured his disciples that even though he would no longer be with them physically, his Father would send them a “Helper, the Holy Spirit” who would “teach [them] all things and bring to [their] remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14).
For those that are united to Christ, this is the same Helper who now dwells within us, empowering us to continue faithfully in our ministries. He is the same Helper who allows us to seek the aid of co-laborers in Christ, reminding us that we were never intended to handle any aspect of this life in our own strength. The perfect life and obedience of Jesus on our behalf frees us from having to know how to navigate life on our own. The gospel of grace allows us to do what we in our own strength never could—to come to terms with our limits so that we might see the complete sufficiency of Jesus, our Helper.
May you be encouraged today to humble yourself and ask for help where it is needed. In doing so, may you be granted the reminder that the greatest Help of all has already arrived in the Holy Spirit—the same help that is alive within you today because of Christ’s work on your behalf.