student ministry, youth ministry

‘Clearing the Mechanism’ in Ministry

By Guest Contributor May 12, 2014

By: Kyle Rohane

When aging pitcher Billy Chapel steps up on the mound, he’s surrounded by chaos. The stadium roars with crazed baseball fans. How can he pitch with so many distractions?

Before his first pitch, Billy shuts his eyes, takes a deep breath, and lets the outside world fade away. In his head, he calls it, “clearing the mechanism.” If he wants to pitch to the best of his ability, he must focus on one thing only: the game. He tunes out fans and hecklers alike—the cheers distract as much as the jeers.

Billy Chapel may be a fictional character portrayed by Kevin Costner in the movie For Love of the Game, but all pitchers must find a way to tune out the noise. They simply can’t pitch at a major league level if they’re overly concerned with shouts from the bleachers.

How do you “clear the mechanism” in your ministry? How do you pinpoint the core of God’s mission and focus on that spot, letting the periphery fade to a haze? It’s not easy.

Ministry is personal. Even the most well-intentioned critique can come across as a sniper shot to your heart. You know the drill: spend days working on a sermon and listen to someone pick it apart in minutes. Fully commit to a new initiative and watch volunteers run it into the ground with internalized and verbalized doubt. Every grenade has your face painted on the side. Every bullet has your name on it.

I’ve often found myself obsessing over naysayers and critics. My excitement and motivation is instantly squelched by a single negative comment. I used to think I could solve this problem by caring more about the accolades than the criticisms. But that only compounded my paranoia. The more I tried to appreciate the compliments, the more the condemnation stung.

My self-esteem was ensnared in the approval of others, like a pitcher crippled by the howl of spectators. I needed to “clear the mechanism.”

You can’t tune out absolutely everyone. You should listen to honest criticism from trusted friends. You should accept the gratitude of a person who benefited from your work. A chef who never interacts with diners won’t stay in business for long. But if her menu is driven primarily by customer reviews, she’ll end up serving nothing but frozen chicken nuggets and fries.

How do you measure your ministry’s value? How do you measure your personal value? If the ultimate reason you’re in ministry is to get back-pats and “thank you” notes, you’ll find that criticism will cut your legs out from under you. But if your self-esteem comes from Christ—from following his call to the best of your ability—the cheers and the mocking will fade to a murmur. Then you’ll be able to focus on informed feedback, not just the high-pitched buzz on the periphery.

It’s ironic that many pursue ministry for love of the fame. Just as in baseball, that blinding spotlight keeps ministry leaders from doing their job. Better to follow your calling for love of the Lord and his mission.


About the Author

Guest Contributor

The LeaderTreks Blog is proud to share the hard-earned wisdom of student ministry leaders from many different backgrounds and professions. From time to time, we will feature guest blog posts from writers other than our regular contributors. We include these posts to provide additional perspectives and insight that we’re sure will help develop you and your ministry…  Read More