3 Tips to Pick You Up When Youth Ministry Gets Discouraging
Here's the deal: if you haven't been discouraged in youth ministry, you're either a cyborg from another planet who hasn't been programmed to feel human emotions or this is your first week. I took my first youth ministry position in 2000. Nineteen years later I'm still going. And let me tell you, I’ve felt plenty of discouragement. Students who you invest in for years who never seem to ever connect with you. Students who won’t behave, ever. Initiatives that don’t work. Parents who just don’t seem to like you. And so on.
Youth ministry is FULL of wins. But it also has moments of discouragement. How do you deal with the times when it just doesn’t feel like you’re making a difference?
I recently had a conversation with a young youth worker. He pulled me aside after my workshop was finished and looked me in the eye: “Andy, man, I love youth ministry, and I love my students, but right now I am just super discouraged. Is that something you've dealt with?” At that moment, I felt God leading me to pray over this young man. And so I did. I felt like the words that came out of my mouth were definitely Spirit inspired, and so I wanted to share them here in case any of you reading this find yourself in your moment of discouragement.
First, what you're feeling is not a bad thing, and it's not unique to you.
I’m willing to bet everyone in ministry has felt discouragement at some time. The OT prophets did. Elijah, the greatest prophet of them all, was so discouraged he asked God to take his life. (God didn’t, BTW.) Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and (who can forget) Jonah all dealt with discouragement. I think John the Baptist did too. I think when he sent his followers to ask Jesus if Jesus was REALLY the Messiah, John was sitting in a jail cell asking if it was all worth it. It SEEMS in some of Paul’s writings to the Galatians and the Corinthians you can sense a little discouragement too (though you could argue that what he was feeling was discouragements kid brother, “frustration”).
The point is this: you’re in good company. While that doesn’t make you feel any better at the moment, there is a reason to hope. People other than you have been discouraged and have overcome it to do great ministry. You can do this.
Second, you are exactly where God wants you. You are the right person for the task.
If we believe that God is sovereign and omnipotent, which the Bible clearly tells us that He is, then you can't believe in coincidences. You have to believe that you are where you are because God wants you there. You are not there by accident. You didn't fall off God's radar. God didn't look up one day to find you serving where you're serving and go, “HUH! That's funny. How did she get there?!” God has a desire to lead students closer to Himself, and He chose you to do it.
God doesn't call us to a task without giving us what we need to be successful at that task. Now, we can certainly still fail because of our unfaithfulness. And it's important to note that God's definition of success may vary significantly from ours. But the point is that you are where God wants you. When discouragement rises to meet you, remind yourself that YOU are exactly who God wanted for this moment.
Third, don’t ever, ever, ever forget that you’re making a difference.
No matter how clumsy your efforts are, I promise you that students notice them. No matter how loudly their body language may communicate to you otherwise, they hear you. No matter how little attention they seem to pay to you, they've noted you and your efforts. I've been doing this a long, long time. I've been around teenagers for almost two decades. I have four children. Hear me when I say this: teenager see the people who invest in their lives. They notice. And many different variables may keep them from showing their appreciation, but I PROMISE you . . . they see, and they are thankful.
Studies show that by merely being in their life as a Christian adult, you anchor teenagers to their faith as they leave high school. It’s true.
And so WHEN you do experience discouragement, remember, you're not alone, God has called and equipped you, and students see you. Keep your head up. Rely on the Spirit, and move forward knowing that you got this.
Andy Blanks and Jake Rasmussen discuss these tips in more depth in the video below! Click