One of the most frustrating and heartbreaking things in ministry is watching people make poor decisions after ignoring wise counsel. Whether it’s truth you have presented in a sermon that is blatantly disregarded or simply not acted upon, or a one-on-one conversation that must have went in one ear and out the other, it makes you want to to shake them and scream when people are unwilling to take the wise counsel you give.
This is something I fight often. I am blessed to find myself preaching in the main services at my church about once every 4 or 5 weeks. Most times I get a very positive response; people adamantly express how good my sermon was and how blessed they were by the message. However, I fail to see much followthrough in their actions. I will preach a sermon on serving and get complemented on how powerful it was, yet we only have a few people sign up to serve. I will preach a sermon on the need to change, or reach people, or do something differently in our lives and receive numerous complements yet people will just continue doing the same thing they were before.
This drove me nuts and quite honestly made me angry. It wasn’t until I realized something and allowed my heart to change that I was able to handle people not listening to my wise counsel. When it comes to dealing with students who don’t listen to what we say, we need to understand…
God brings change in people, we don’t!
Yes, we should still care deeply about people. Yes, it should still seriously bother us when students go astray and don’t listen to the wise counsel we have offered. But, we need to understand that our job is NOT to get students to obey, change, or not make bad decisions. Rather, our job is to help point students in the direction God desires and allow Him to change them. God brings the change in people, we do not. This overarching theme needs to be our number one understanding before we go any further: we cannot control peoples’ actions or hearts, that is up to God.
So, what can we do?
1. Be faithful
God has given us a calling and our job is to be faithful to that calling. We are to speak truth in a loving way to help guide students to Jesus. It is so easy to allow the frustration of people ignoring what we have to say deter us from continuing to speak truth. We must continue to be faithful in serving God and doing what we do for Him. It is not for us, or even for the person or people we are talking to, it is for God. We are accountable to God for what we say and how we serve Him, the people we talk to are then accountable to Him for what they do with it. We need to make sure we are being faithful in doing our job.
2. Stay even when they reject you
I have been blessed to have pastors in my life who stayed with me even when I rejected their wise counsel. If it wasn’t for Troy, Ken, Brian, and Eric understanding their role in my life, even when I made bad choices, I don’t know where I would be today. Each one of them were there for me even when I rejected their wise counsel.
Let me be clear, being there for students who have not listened to your wise counsel does not mean putting yourself in a position where you will get hurt. It does not mean allowing people to walk all over you, or cause you to beat your head against a wall by continually pouring into someone who does not listen. It means being there for someone when they decide to come back. When they are ready to listen, you are still there to give wisdom.
3. Pray for them!
Like we said, whether people act on the advice we give them is out of our hands. It is completely in God’s hands, which means we must continue to lift people up in prayer even when they don’t listen to us. God is the one who will soften their hearts, He is in control, our job is to support and guide people to Him. Many, many times all that means is prayer. Pray for the people in your ministry who need to listen to wise counsel (that is all of them, including yourself) and continue to pray for them even when they make poor decisions.
It can be irritating and distressing to watch our students ignore what we have told or taught them. But we need to remember our role and allow God to work. Hopefully these tips can help you as you relate to the students in your ministry. If you have any more specific questions please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Todd has been in youth ministry for 10 years and has a passion for reaching lost students and training youth workers to do the same. He is the founder of Stoked On Youth Ministry, a speaker, author, and pastor. When Todd is not writing or speaking he enjoys surfing, baseball and most importantly hanging out with his awesome wife and three beautiful daughters. You can connect with Todd on Twitter @TheTodd_Jones, Instagram @Todd_Jones or for speaking inquiries visit TheToddJones.com