Fight or Flight
We’ve all heard about peoples’ tendency to either fight or flight. In psychology, this shows itself evident when little Johnny is provoked and either fights back or runs away from the situation. Whether you’re on one extreme or somewhere towards the middle, everyone has a fight or flight response to life. Some people even look for fights to be had with people, while others flight so much that they avoid people altogether. Just like almost everything in life, there needs to be a healthy balance of fight and flight in our lives!
You see, the way we’re taught about peoples’ fight or flight mechanisms makes both look bad. So how can anybody stand a chance at living a healthy life being open, honest, and grounded firmly in their beliefs? We don’t. But a healthy understanding of how fight and flight fits into God’s bigger picture of who we are in Christ does give us that change.
Naturally, the prime example here is Christ. He shows us that there are certain circumstances in which we need to “flight”, or simply let things alone. I’m not saying that Christ ran away from people. But I can guaruntee you there were many times where He could have stepped in and wreaked havoc for holiness, yet He decided to let things alone at the time. For instance, while He did step in later in the story, He let Lazarus die when He could have thought it and Lazarus would have gone on living. So why didn’t He? Because God had a bigger plan to show His divine nature and power through that whole situation. There were other times where Jesus was very much a fighter! Because of this, I have a hard time taking those classic paintings of a gentle Jesus seriously. Jesus was a beast of a man! Both physically and, quite obviously, spiritually. Who can forget when He turned over the temple tables? Or how about the countless times He gave the Pharisees a smack down with a few chosen words?
So what does this have to do with youth ministry anyways? We certainly don’t have the ability to raise people from the dead or the tactfulness to tell someone like it is the way Jesus did. But there is something we can control, and that is how we respond to the people in our lives and situations that may arise. On a much more minute scale than Jesus did. Below are a few tips to how you can find a healthy balance between the fight or flight mechanism in your life when it comes to ministry:
1. Be a fighter. Ok, I know you’re confused, because I just told you there needs to be a balance instead of one over the other. Bear with me here. A fighter doesn’t mean you’re the bully standing in the middle of the ring of onlookers in the middle school courtyard as you face little Johnny. That is not what I mean by fighter. A fighter is someone who will stick to his guns and stand for what he believes in. A fighter loves God’s truth and won’t let anything secondary challenge that! When it comes to ministry, if a student is dealing with an issue or a parent comes to you with an earful of problems, remember to be a fighter for God’s truth. Don’t sweep things under the rug and pretend these things don’t exist, because they do. Don’t become a bully either. And ALWAYS remember to use tact, as Jesus did.
2. Know when to start and when to stop. There is a time and place for everything, as I’m sure you’ve all heard. In church Sunday morning is probably not the time or the place. A business meeting may be the place, but not the time. There are a bunch of scenarios, but remember to make sure that it is both the right place and time to discuss an issue that you or someone else is having. Matthew 18 tells us that we need to talk with the individual directly first, then go from there. What you can’t do is ignore its existence and avoid the issue. With that said, you’ll need to learn how to be discerning. Some issues are not worth addressing right away, if at all, while others, need to be addressed on the spot and need someone to step in and take charge. Make sure you give ample time to resolve the issue at hand, but don’t drag it on too long either.
3. Get trained. You’re a fighter aren’t you? And what do fighters do? They train. Nobody is going to face last years champion without first training their lives away. This should be the same for us as Christians and ministers of God’s gospel as well. I Peter 3 tells us to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope we find in Christ. This verse is not exclusive to apologetics, but extends to ministry, as well as many other areas, as well. Next time a student comes to you with a glaring immoral act or a parent questions your methods and character, make sure you don’t react (too much of a fight) or retreat (too much of a flight). If you’re not prepared to answer right away, then ask for some time to think and pray through some things. Depending on what it is, you probably won’t need a ton of time. But take time to examine Scriptures if need be, drown it in some prayer, and seek wise counsel (especially if you’re still new to this ministry thing). One thing we definitely don’t want to do is ruin our audience and integrity with a knee jerk reaction.
4. Be a gentle giant. Ephesians 4 tells us to speak the truth in love. I like to think of speaking the truth as a spiritual smack down, as I mentioned with Jesus earlier. But we absolutely cannot leave it at that. If we did, we’d go around all day tearing people down, ripping them to shreds, and leaving them there for the wolves. James talks about this as well. It takes a spiritual giant to be able to rightly handle the word of God in order to communicate God’s truths in a powerful and impactful way. It takes an especially gentle giant to be able to do this in a loving way that aims to bring people closer to God instead of leaving them curled up in a ball feeling either like a failure or angry with you and God. We are Christ’s representatives on earth, and we mustn’t do anything to ruin His Great Name!
Whether you need to stand up and become more of a fighter or tone it down and be less of a fighter, I hope you find today’s post encouraging. God will use is in even more powerful ways as we ask Him to give us a healthy balance between these two opposites. May your ministries grow healthier and stronger as you learn to take a stand for God’s truths!
Posted on February 29, 2012, in Leadership and tagged Authentic, Bible, Christianity, Church, Church Ministry, Communication, Discipleship, Family Ministry, fight, flight, God, Jesus, Leadership, Life, Parenting, Pastor, Prayer, Religion, Student Ministry, talk, Youth Ministry, Youth Pastor, Youth Work. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.