Have you ever heard the term “pay it forward“? It is a term that often gets used in ministry circles to encourage us to sow the blessings we have received from mentors into the next generation. We receive so much from the mentors who formed us and we pay it forward to those that we mentor. But do we ever pay back those who have mentored us with a thank you? Ministry can be such a thankless task that occasionally we need to thank those who mentored us along the way.
Recently I was working with a great young leader, asking him about his journey of faith. He had a great outlook on ministry so I asked him about his role models and he was able to list four or five men who had mentored him. These were youth group leaders or young pastors in his Church. It happens that I know some of these men and I bet they would love to know the fruit of some their work. More importantly that experience made me reflect on the people who I needed to thank for sowing into me.
St Paul talks about watering seeds that other have planted and to recognise that God does all the work. Sometimes in ministry we seemed to be doing a lot of sowing and watering without much growth. In many cases we never see the fruit of our labour because God plants the person in another ministry or another church. We can go for years without knowing what we have achieved. If you find yourself in this situation here is three things to do:
- Create a culture of Gratitude: instead of waiting for someone to thank you for your ministry, start thanking those who serve with you in ministry. Thank the volunteers who serve every week, thank those who pray for the ministry and thank those who financially support your ministry. Don’t forget to thank the people above you, your Senior Minister, Parish Priest, Vestry, Elders board or Parish Council.
- Thank your Mentors: think of all the people who have mentored you and sown into your development. Write them a little thank you note, message them on Facebook or email them. Whilst it is nice to send them a card, just thank them any way you can. Often we still look up to our mentors and forget that they are real people who get disheartened just like we do. If you appreciate your mentors by thanking them it will help them stay strong in their ministry too.
- Love your Family: often our family are the forgotten heroes of our ministry. Perhaps your parents took you to church as a child, supported your faith or paid for you to go on camp. Maybe your relatives encouraged your development as a teenager. Maybe your wife, husband and kids have allowed you to go to one more ministry event. Love your family first and thank them for the support they give you.
We should take the blessings sown into us and pass it forward to the next generation. But don’t forget to pay back the mentoring, love and attention that you received from others. Learn to pay it forward and pay it back.
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