This word has been the bane of many ministries. It has burned out so many good leaders, destroyed marriages, strained faith walks and damaged students. All youth pastors want their groups to be perfect, and I don't believe there's ever been one who just wanted to run the worst youth group in town. We've all tried to achieve "perfection" but alas, it is unattainable. It's a mirage, a puff of smoke, an impossible dream. At least here on earth it is. Most of us who seek to go beyond doing our best in our groups will tend to fall into two extremes whilst pursuing perfection. 1)we're never satisfied, and 2) We refuse to budge.
On the one hand, we constantly are seeking for the next best thing, program, curriculum, model, media, etc that will take our group "to the next level." We work hard to provide the best teaching, events and volunteers, but more out of a mindset based on the idea that the results they yield will take us closer to that "perfection" we are reaching for. Sometimes, it may even lead us to leave a perfectly healthy and growing ministry for an even bigger opportunity and sometimes it will cause us all sorts of frustrations when we can't mould our people into the picture we have in our heads. This is quite possibly the reason why criticisms hurt us so much. yea, I know that constructive criticism is always good to receive, but there's always a tiny portion of us who feels slighted by someone saying that we could have done better. We lose sight of the very reason we became youth pastors in the first place, not to chase after the spectre of perfection, but to point people to the one who truly is perfect: God.
We do great harm to our students, because we tend to (perhaps indadvertedly) show them how to pursue "perfect" rather than how to pursue God. They watch us and hear about how we work, pray, but I fear they see that our hearts are not fully focused on seeking God, but in creating perfection so that God will seek us. Perhaps this is the reason why many students feel that they are not good enough christians, that every time they try to do something and it doesn't produce fruit effortlessly that they need to work harder at being a better Christian. We may even teach them to not enjoy the "now" therefore, they go through life seeking the next big thing, never stopping to see the good they've built.
The pendulum swing to the other extreme isn't any better as we may be resistant of changes that would expand the effectiveness of our ministry. We become so stuck in a rut that we forget there are many ways to enhance what we do, to keep it fresh and relevant or, most importantly, accessible to everyone. We may even become critics (or trolls) of others who are seeing increased success. We start making excuses as to why that wouldn't work in our area, or we blame the lack of money, people, volunteers, building capacity, equipment, or even blame senior church leadership for their "lack of vision." It all becomes an insatiable whining or a discourse on "why that's not going to work" or "If I had a chance..." yet, we do nothing but hope that somehow one day we wake up and everything will magically have reached perfection.
This also hurts our students because they copy what we do or how we talk/think because we are an important figure in their lives. By dwelling in this extreme we teach them that working towards excellence is a fools errand and that keeping things status quo is best. Thus they grow up to be people who wallow in mediocrity or below, never wanting to move beyond their limits because we taught them to never endeavour to be better. We taught them to become immovable.
So what now?
I'm not entirely sure that there is a clear cut remedy to this issue. Personally, I believe that we must do everything in our physical power to be the best we can be as followers of Christ. Our example speaks louder than a thousand sermons, but we cannot allow ourselves to be so consumed with reaching perfection, when we know it is impossible. I believe that part of (if not the whole) answer comes from shifting our focus away from a perfection based on our achievement and centre it on a perfection based on God. What I mean by this is: that we do everything in our power accomplish every task in the best way we can. We must push ourselves to our limits, we seek ways to improve (within reason), and we let God deal with making things perfect. We focus on our best and do what is pleasing to God, what will bring him the greatest amount of Honour. I believe that even though it may not look "perfect" in our eyes, in His it more than does. No matter how simple, limited, or small, when we do things to bring God glory, with pure and humble motives, He deems it perfect.
Until next time!