Even though I am too young to have watched this show myself, I know that the Lone Ranger was full of it. First, being a lone ranger is dumb. Second, the dude was a liar… He wasn’t “Lone,” he had that guy Tonto to help him out. If even the Lone Ranger couldn’t do the Lone Ranger; perhaps we should take note and avoid the Lone Ranger as well.

To define the scope of what I am talking about, let’s start with the premise that we are aiming for longevity in ministry. If we can agree on that for an aim, perhaps we can also agree that Soul Care will aid in that longevity. With those two points in mind, I remember the first four years of my ministry career and thank God that I survived all the nonsense I inflicted upon myself and others.

A Lone Ranger mentality is common in ministry, but it seems to be even more so in budding youth leaders. For me there was a pride aspect to it; I wanted to do it all so people would say ‘Look at him, he can do it all! We are so lucky to have him as a youth pastor!” Maybe I didn’t think those exact words, but you get my point. Another issue that led to Lone Rangering was that getting parents involved and recruiting volunteers is hard. Hard things take time. It is “easier” to ignore hard things and do it yourself, so I did. To add to it, for a time, I had disinterested leadership that wasn’t engaged enough to notice my Loneness. The biggest factor, though, was pride. I thought I could do it alone. I lied to myself about how well I was doing. The truth is, when I did it by myself, I was a lousy youth pastor. Much like the real Lone Ranger, I sucked at Lone Rangering.

Why is Lone Rangering bad? First, there are the things you lack, then the things you attract, followed by the things you miss. The things you lack are relationship, accountability and a future.  The relationships you lack could manifest in help, support and enjoyment. Without a ministry partner (or two, or ten!) the work falls on you. All of it. That means the weight is all on you. All of it. That covers the help and support, but also, ministry with friends is awesome. You miss that too, when you decide to go it alone. Discouragement, hopelessness and fatigue are byproducts of being a Lone Ranger.

Accountability is a crazy beast. Those that want it usually don’t need it and those that don’t want it usually need it the most! When we Lone Ranger, we don’t have someone we are accountable to that is holding us up in terms of sin, expectations and soul care. We lose out on the spiritually formative questions of how we are doing, and we aren’t held to the standard of a leader in the ministry of Jesus. Important questions like how is your prayer life? What is the Lord saying to you lately? What is going well and not so well? Where are you out of your depth? are needed and helpful in guiding us. This is a point where I get a little push back, usually that comes by way of the statement, “but I meet regularly with my senior pastor.” First, that is a good thing! Next, are you being honest in those meetings?

The things we attract as a Lone Ranger are tied to what we lack with the accountability. We attract the enemy when we are by ourselves and open ourselves up to temptation and spiritual attack. Bad things happen when I am alone. The distance I feel from community and from Jesus grows, and the enemy fills that gap in a hurry. Prayer time dries up, I read scripture only to prepare to teach, and old habits rise again. The dead man in me comes back to life and I see sin resurrect. Also, my susceptibility to the lies of the enemy increases.

What we miss as Lone Rangers is the point. We are not designed to do this alone. Our development is stunted as leaders and as followers of Jesus, but also, we are unable to other leaders. We also miss the ability to plan with a strategic mind because we often get focused on the now rather than the then. To be developed, we must invite another into the process with us. To develop others, we must invite another into the process. Allen, my senior pastor, has a rule of thumb: Make it sustainable and replicable. Lone Rangering misses the point on both counts.

Alright, Lone Rangering is defined. With that, keep in mind that Lone Rangering likely does not start as a conscious choice. It often is the response to some friction, logistics or events that then becomes a pattern. So, what do we do? I have two suggestions. First, get some intercessors, and second, find a Don.

Intercessory prayer is one of the most vital tasks of the church and can be a force multiplier when we utilize intercessors. The first organized group formed when the Billings Vineyard was planted was intercessors, and many of that first group continue to intercede on our behalf. Paul related the importance of intercessors in his instructions to Timothy for worship:

1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 1 Tim 2:1

Sending prayer requests to people that you know will pray for you brings heavy guns to the fight. Even in the creation of a list to pray for you, find a task that leads to evaluation of self and ministry, but also a level of accountability because you are transparently reporting to others. Also, the importance of intercessors in the spiritual battle cannot be overstated. Intercessors are key to maintaining the high ground against the weapons and tactics the enemy uses to bring us down. If your church has an intercessory team, use them. If they don’t, make one. If you don’t know who to ask, I’ll pray for you. Send me a note and I will intercede for you. Do it. Seriously, I will pray for you.

Next, get a Don. I have a Don and don’t know how I made it with out one. Don is a retired youth pastor and camp administrator for another church here in Billings. For decades, he worked in youth and ran an awesome retreat center owned by his church. Don is in his eighties, as retired as he will ever be, and has taken on the task of being my Don. I met him at the retreat center a few years ago when I was leading an Alpha program. We were there for the Holy Spirit weekend, and right away, his kindness and genuine interest in me and how I was doing moved me to the point that I didn’t want it to end. When we got back from the retreat, I asked him to grab a cup of coffee and talk. What came from that is a cherished relationship that keeps me accountable and supported as I engage in ministry. As we meet for lunch every week, Don listens to how I am but won’t let me off the hook until he is satisfied that I was honest. He asks hard questions with gentleness and holds me accountable. He prays with me and refreshes me.

This is the best advice I can give you for soul care. First, get some intercessors. Second, find a Don. If you have a Don (or a Donette) use them. Let’s eradicate the Lone Ranger from Vineyard Youth. Our ministry and our Spiritual walk will be the better for it!

P.S. I am serious, if you need an intercessor, hit me up.

Adam Greenwell

Associate Pastor at Billings Vineyard, Montana
Adam Greenwell started out in ministry as a youth pastor and now resources and supports the youth teams in the Big Sky Region.

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