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A Tension Unique To Youth Ministry?

A Tension Unique To Youth Ministry?

Recently I was doing a training with a group of youth workers when I got into a sidebar discussion that got me thinking about something unique to faith and faith development. I was talking with one of the volunteer youth workers about mission trips. She mentioned that students seem particularly enthused to go overseas and share their faith, but hesitant to engage people in their community. We chatted for a bit about the reasons this was true. But it got me thinking about a bigger issue . . .

In youth ministry, we often ask and expect things from our teenagers that we may not do ourselves.


In our discussion about evangelism and mission trips I heard my own issues in my responses. I TOO have at times seemed more willing to go around the world to share my faith than I have been to share it with my neighbor. And this goes way beyond evangelism. I challenge the teenagers in my small group to read their Bible everyday when this is a struggle for me. I encourage students to sacrificially serve others, following Christ’s example, and yet I don’t give of myself as much as I should.

We are fallen. And yet, commanded to imitate God. And so by our very nature, if we engage in leading others in their faith journey, we will at some point challenge others to do something with which we struggle ourselves. And this has to be OK to some extent. We have to be OK with this dilemma.

It’s an interesting problem unique to faith, if you think about it. After all, a firefighter couldn’t teach someone to put out fires that he or she couldn't or wouldn’t. But as youth workers, we’ll challenge our students not to be critical of others even as we struggle with it ourselves.

I’m curious how you work out of this tension. Of course, sanctification plays a roll. As we grow closer to Christ, the assumption (hopefully) is that we grow more and more in His likeness and thus are leading more out of areas of strength, not of weakness. But this side of heaven, we’ll always struggle with this.
How do you handle this dynamic? How do you deal with leading teenagers to pursue Christ-likeness when we ourselves are fallen?
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