I just watched the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It’s free on Netflix, and I would recommend it.
Jiro is an 85-year-old sushi chef in Japan. He’s almost universally regarded as being the best in the world at what he does.
The documentary is fascinating and inspiring and one minor scene – almost a throwaway quote – really made me reconsider the way that many of us judge and critique our own ministries.
The group interviewed another successful sushi chef who recalled apprenticing under Jiro thirty years ago, as he says, “before Jiro became famous.”
Jiro became a sushi chef at 19. At 55 he was starting to become successful. In between, there were 36 years of precise work and mastery of his craft.
After that, there were 30 more.
What does all of this have to do with youth ministry?
I am consistently struck by how dismissive youth workers can be of their own ministries, especially if they don’t experience short-term success.
We go to a conference and leave disheartened, wondering why we’re not as good a speaker as the big names on the big stage. We miss the twenty or thirty years of work it took to get them there.
We work our butts off for nine months to launch something spectacular and it doesn’t make the splash we hoped it would. After three years in one place, we begin to doubt that we’ll ever see real results.
Too many of us quit The Race because we truly believed we’d be at the Finish Line by now.
Thing is, we’ve only just gotten started.
Everything about ministry is a longer process than we wish it would be. Truly transformed lives are less often the result of a single message and more the result of years of investment from several different people.
Writing and speaking and teaching are skills that take thousands and thousands of hours to develop.
Youth ministry is a craft, not unlike painting or martial arts or even sushi. Sometimes it takes just a few decades to get there.
So take heart. You’re not where you want to be. Maybe you’re not where you thought you’d be.
But you’re moving in the right direction and that’s exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Written by Aaron Helman
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Smarter Youth Ministry exists to help you learn how to manage their time and resources better so that you can do more ministry with less frustration. All of that having been said, you most likely know him as the creator of “Lamentation or Taylor Swift Lyric.”