“Hi Craig, my name is Karl, and I too am a recovering ministry-a-holic.”
In the current issue of K! Magazine, there is an excellent article by my friend, Craig Jutila, former children’s pastor at Saddleback Community Church, where he very honestly and transparently talks about his own personal “crash” from being so addicted to ministry he found himself in an unhealthy place spiritually, emotionally, and relationally with his family. I appreciated his candor. I’ve attempted to be as open here on my blog (and even more so in one on one relationships) about my own “demise” as a children’s pastor nearly two years ago who thought he could do everything and keep his walk with God and family life healthy. Why are the best lessons in life learned so painfully?
Craig’s topic was “spiritual renewal” and he admits (as I will) that we can be so good at faking it and knowing all the answers even as we are dying on the inside – but unwilling to admit our need. He quotes an unknown person as saying we don’t change until, “you hurt enough that you have to” or you “learn enough that you want to.” We both admit, it wasn’t the latter for us. We had to reach that point of deep hurt and dispair until we could finally be honest with ourselves that we needed help!
I love that Craig admits going to counseling. Like me, he once thought counseling was for people who had “issues” and that, as Craig says, it would “require acknowledging that I didn’t have it all together and I was different than all the spiritual people I worked around all day, every day.” I think he must have the same counselor as I do – for he too was challenged to be a “human BEING” and not a “human DOING” – something that took me months to get my brain around too.
While I know crisis times are no fun (understatement!) one thing I have learned on my own journey is that God loves ME more than my ministry, my pride, my reputation, or anything I can do for him. I’m glad both Craig and I were able to get out of ministry enough to discover a Walk with Christ apart from ministry. The year I took off from all speaking/ministry was a difficult year – as I was still healing and dealing with the consequences of my crash – but it was also a spiritually wonderful year of discovery and renewal – a time during which I learned things I was completely unable to discover while in “ministry.” And that I fear I would have never discovered had I somehow managed to keep on keeping on – “never quitting” – as the common call is. Sometimes you have to be a Quitter before you can be a genuinely Learner.
A friend of mine recented teased me and said, “All you cm experts – you, Craig, Sue, Reggie, and Jim have left the ministry and gone full time with your side ministries.” (ouch) While Jim Wideman is now back on staff at a church, I think it’s true for the rest in that quote. (And I’m not sure I belong in that list!) It is hard to answer the question, “How can you advise children’s pastors on children’s ministry if you are no longer doing children’s ministry full time?”
Oh, there are the obvious answers – over fifteen years of experience, current volunteer experience, bachelors and masters degree in children’s ministry, experience, education, God-given insights, etc. But the bottom line has to be simply, the Call of God and obedience.
My life mission statement since age nineteen (except for the recent year I set it aside) is:
To reach and teach as many children as possible with the Good News of God’s Love, and in the process to Enlist, Equip and Encourage others to do the same.
However, while that missions statement still drives my focus and passion for ministry – it no longer drives ME. I am driven to walk with Christ and love my family. Period. And when and how God allows or asks, I love equipping and encouraging others on their journey in life and ministry too.
Someday I hope to be back in a local church ministry setting as a children’s pastor – but I no longer “need” that be have identity, purpose or value. I’m content being just me – the forgiven sinner and follower of Jesus, the loving husband, and hopefully the most fun, engaged, and intentional father my son can possibly have!
I am so thankful for those who have walked with me during these difficult past few years – those who put up with me before my blinders were knocked off – and for others on the journey, like Craig, who are honest enough to let me know, I’m not the only completely messed up child of God who’s got only one thing going for him – for some crazy reason, Jesus loves me. (and He loves you too my friend!)