One of the greatest tools the enemy uses to distract us from what God has for us is comparison. It is such an easy trap to fall into because it is one that doesn’t need to be taught, it is human nature. We all compare without even thinking, and to be honest not all comparison is bad, but most of the time when it comes to comparing in youth ministry it only leads to us not living up to what God has for us. Here are the two major ways comparison keeps us from fulfilling God’s full potential in our ministries.
“I am not good enough”
This thought often creeps in when we compare our ministry to one with more students, more volunteers, a bigger budget, a bigger church, a better worship band, and any of the other things WE have developed as a standard of success in youth ministry. We look at the gifting God has given other youth workers and compare ourselves and our gifting. But when we compare ourselves or our ministry to other more “successful” youth ministries we immediately jump to the conclusion that there is something wrong with us instead of embracing what God has blessed us with and entrusted to us.
I remember leading a youth ministry that was growing quickly and we were seeing many new believers. We didn’t have many musically talented students (and I am definitely not) and the ones we had were so young in their faith that a worship band wouldn’t have gone over well anyway. So, we didn’t have a worship band. All my friends that were youth pastors had awesome student led worship bands, and incredible worship experiences at their youth group. Right away my comparison instincts brought out my jealousy and prompted the question of what in the world was I doing wrong?? The answer is nothing, God had just simply given me a different opportunity for ministry.
I am not saying that learning from other ministries and seeing what works in other ministries is bad, because it is not. We should strive to get better and learn from others who are doing well, but when we start comparing in a competitive way the thoughts of inadequacy and bitterness begin to creep in.
“I am doing ‘okay’”
On the flip side of comparison that leads to feelings of inadequacy is the comparison that leads to complacency. And it is just as detrimental if not worse! This is something I have been guilty of over and over again. We look at other people’s youth ministries and immediately think “well we are definitely doing better than them”. Maybe you are the one with more students, more volunteers, a better youth room, better games, or an awesome band and even though you aren’t living up to your potential you justify it with “well I am doing okay because I am better than them”. The problem is that they are not the standard, God is the standard and too often youth workers settle for “Okay” instead of GREAT because they are comparing to someone else or someone else’s ministry. Thinking that you are doing well and settling just because the guy down the street is doing a terrible job does nothing but make you prideful (for no reason) and miss what The Lord really has for you.
Instead of comparing, FOCUS!
Instead of comparing ourselves or our ministries to other youth leaders or youth ministries as a gauge to whether or not we are successful we need to develop a hyper focus on what God has for us! The gifts and tasks that He will give you are completely different from the ones that He has given the the guy down the street. You might be the person that is reaching a ton of lost students for Christ and seeing tons of new salvations, or you may be the person that is combating complacency in life-long Christian students. Both are completely different, but both are completely necessary. They will both look different in the way that you do ministry and different personality types and gifting are necessary for both. Focus on what God’s purpose for YOU is. Focus on what He wants you to do, and do the best you can with what He has called you to do! If you are going to compare, compare what you are doing to the mission God has given you and evaluate how you are doing.