By Carol Harston
Sitting at my desk, the silence echoes in open ravine seemingly about swallow me up. The papers scattered represent the million directions I could take. Seconds pass by slowly and the clock’s second hand seems as loud as I’ve ever heard it. It matters not the prompting situation, the past burdens, the ministry setting or the tenure on the job. In those moments, we all wonder the haunting questions…
How did I get myself here?
Where do I go from here?
Is there anyone else in this with me?
It is not just the unknown and uncertainty that weighs on us—it is the void of voices. It is the tangible loneliness filling the room.
Colleagues down the hall offer great wisdom. Fellow ministers down the road or across the state offer encouragement and sympathy at peer groups and regional meetings. And yet, they do not necessarily share the peculiar challenges within one’s own specific vocation. They do not necessarily fill the loneliness felt at the moments when the way forward seems obscure and the territory uncharted.
Ministry networks provide peers who serve common groups, share similar vocational tasks and unite through the ministry within specific settings. They create the safe space that abolishes loneliness’ power to paralyze us.
Brought into the safe space of ministry networks, these moments become the impetus to vision and transformation. Peers in similar vocations offer voices that echo sympathy, proclaim shared purpose and accompany us in the journey. Ministry networks, at their best, dis-empower the short-game failures or disappointments so that they might support endurance for the long-game success.
In the company of those who entered the game before us, we glean wisdom from others’ difficult moments and gain confidence from others’ successes. In the company of those who have come along behind us, we offer a voice of encouragement and gain fresh enthusiasm.
The CBF Youth Ministry Network has found this to be true through these years together. Almost two years ago at the first Oasis Retreat, CBFYMN began a discussion about what unites our network. We began a process of naming the core values that guide our individual youth ministries and our collective identity as a network.
What has emerged is our articulation of foundational attributes healthy CBF youth ministries exhibit. We hope that these specific attributes will define our network, guide its future, and equip churches to share the gospel most powerfully. We hope that these attributes will keep our eyes on the importance and significance of our task so that our moments of uncertainty are held up by a firm foundation shared by people across the nation.
This February at CBFYMN’s Oasis Retreat, CBFYMN will continue its work in rallying around our common pursue. Settled in the North Carolina Mountains, we will wonder together where God is calling us as a collective body of ministers. Our work in February will be in the effort to care for not just the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as a whole, but for the individual minister who finds herself or himself asking the haunting questions in the silence after a hard day of work. Our work will be done so that we might best “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).
Carol Harston has served as Minister to Youth at Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, since 2007. Outside of youth ministry, Carol has her hands full as a mom to James and Collier and wife to Drew (orthopedic surgery resident and faithful youth volunteer).
- Oasis is an event designed by the CBF Youth Ministry Network to address the spiritual health of our CBF youth ministers. Oasis is not an education event, but it is professional development – we minister more effectively when we are in good spiritual health. Register here!
- CBF Ministry Networks offer virtual and actual spaces for ministers to come together, share resources, and find support.
- ChurchWorks Conference creates space for renewal in ministry through practices of creativity, community and worship. To teach the people of God, educators need a place to learn, reflect and laugh together. ChurchWorks is for practitioners of education and spiritual formation in the congregational setting. Learn more and register here.
- D365, a daily devotional website produced by CBF partner Passport Inc., offers an Advent Devotional Series, Following the Star, beginning November 27.
- The Upper Room offers Advent eCourses. Learn more and enroll!
- CBF Arkansas offers an Advent Devotional.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is blessed with ministers and laity who share their gifts with their congregation and community. ChurchWorks: Congregational Resources provides a virtual space for Cooperative Baptists to discover new ideas and share their gifts freely. The resources curated and shared here are offered so that CBF will continue forming together. We ask that you give these authors credit for their work where appropriate.