I recently read an essay from a United Methodist Bishop in which he used an African proverb involving elephants to speak deep truth into a difficult situation. It began an expedition to explore some more of these proverbs and how much wisdom they provided for youth ministry in the 21st century.
An elephant does not die from one broken rib.
Ministry is tough. Ministry to adolescents and their families, where society is constantly bombarding them, is even tougher. If you have been a youth worker for any time at all, you will have scars, but they do not have limit or drive you from your ministry. A broken rib is going to be painful, but there is not much to be medically done for it, except for take time for it to heal. Situations may be hurtful, but when we consider all that Jesus suffered for us, we can endure this temporary pain.
When two elephants fight, it is the grass that is trampled.
Traditional v. Contemporary worship, Senior Pastor v. Youth Minster, small church v. mega church, or money v. ministry. It does not matter who or what the conflict is between (and yes, there are always battles), something or someone suffers and the real loser is rarely a combatant. Make it part of your ministry to ensure that your relationship with Christ, your family and students are not trampled.
If you go through the high grass where the elephant has already gone, you don’t get soaked with the dew.
Do not be afraid to ask for help in your ministry. There are folks in your congregation who can speak more deeply into the lives of your students than you can. There is a youth director in the next congregation that has already solved the problem that you are dealing with, in a much healthier fashion. Even though your pastor may have worked with Moses as a student, can still assist you with a bit of modern day ministry.
The wisdom of the proverb comes in the truth that one finds in their own situation. While most of our ministries do not revolve around the African Savanna, there is much to be learned from the knowledge around us. Do not be afraid to seek wisdom in the Proverbs, people or pachyderms.