a youth worker's story
This is a story of a youth worker. She's a real youth worker. We met last year at a youth ministry conference. She has purchased and taught some of ym360's Bible Study resources. She is a part of the ym360 Community, interacting on our Facebook page, commenting on our blog, and so on. I had the occasion of speaking with her on the phone for a half hour or so last week. She had some technical questions about some youth ministry issues, and about some curriculum. Then, we just sort of talked about her youth ministry in general. She is an awesome youth pastor. Seriously.
But like many youth ministers and youth workers, she is dealing with some serious challenges. As she described what she was dealing with in her youth ministry, my heart sank. She said her youth ministry was faltering somewhat. You see, her mid-week youth gathering had become a real outreach for her and her church's youth ministry. They were drawing all sorts of nun-churched students, real outcasts . . . They were coming, and coming regularly to hear the Gospel. What an awesome thing, right?
Until the complaints started coming from parents. This awesome, passionate, committed youth pastor is watching as the parents of her "churched" kids pull their students out of her Wednesday night service. They don't want their children to be around these other teenagers, the "un-saved." This issue is affecting the youth group across the board. The "church" kids come on Sundays, but as they become juniors and seniors she's seeing a drop off. Hearing her story, it's apparent she's tried so hard.
She's had parent meetings to address what's going on. She's put mission statements in front of her students' parents trying to get them to articulate their vision, to no avail. There is more, but you get the picture . . . I was amazed as I listened to her story. She was doing everything right! I kept thinking how there are so many ministries across the country that would die for such a solid, knowledgeable, impassioned leader.
But because the parents of her students have forgotten the Gospel, because they have hardened hearts, and because they are leading their children to embrace the same Pharisaical, smug, and distorted faith that they themselves practice, this youth minister is watching her ministry falter. I prayed for her before we hung up. I have prayed for her since, and will continue to. Hers is a story that repeats itself far too often in youth ministry. But, I was left with one overwhelming impression as I have thought about our conversation:
I was so impressed with her positivity and perseverance.
I could hear in her voice that she was tired. I could tell that she was heartbroken in some ways about what was happening. But I could also tell she had a certain resolve, a real sense of confidence in God and the call He had put on her life. I was reminded of Hezekiah. Hezekiah was the king of the southern kingdom of Judah when the northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed by Assyria. He watched the 10 northern tribes of Israel get wiped off the map. A few years later, the Assyrians took aim at Judah and Hezekiah. See, Hezekiah was an incredible man. A godly man. He was the greatest king of Judah, a King very much in the mold of David. He returned Judah back to her first love! He reinstituted the Temple worship of God; he destroyed the altars to other gods; he led the people to once again celebrate the Passover Feast.
And yet, in all this good, he found himself in great duress. The powerful Assyrian army encircled Jerusalem, preparing for a final siege. The Assyrian king sent officials to taunt Hezekiah, and to taunt God. But Hezekiah sought God out and God delivered. In a mighty way. God struck down nearly 200,000 Assyrian soldiers in their sleep. (Maybe God could look into the parents of these teenagers? JUST KIDDING!!!!) Siege avoided. God wins.
My point is this: Hezekiah was doing everything right. And trouble still found him. My youth worker friend is doing the same thing. And she is finding that these trials have found her! Can you relate?
I don't know everything about her situation, but my hunch is that she is faithfully seeking God, just like Hezekiah, in her time of need. And she is doing so with confidence and with a great attitude.
So, maybe today we can simply let her story be an encouragement to us.
As we seek to do God's will and God's work, and as we encounter set-backs and discouragement, let's remember that the God who calls us to certain tasks always equips us to do the work. He is faithful. He is our encouragement and deliverer. And He will see us through when the world seems to come against us.