Are You Hurting For The Teenagers In Your Youth Ministry? Good . . .
But here's a novel thought: if you're feeling the burden of the weight of people's mistakes, shortcomings, and sin, you may actually be doing it exactly right.
Read what Paul says here in Galatians 4:19-20:
My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
The Christians in Galatia were struggling in their spiritual development. They were being led astray by the Judaizers. And because Paul had such a great personal and spiritual investment in them, it pained him greatly. Look at how Paul described it: he said his anguish over the spiritual state of the Galatians' hearts caused him pains that were similar to birth pains (surely there are some women out there who would, rightly, ask Paul just how the heck he would know what a birth pain felt like, but I digress . . .).
Do you have such a personal and spiritual investment in the lives of your students that their personal struggles (spiritual and otherwise) cause you great pain?
Let's face it: when you invest your life in the life of another, you open yourself up to pain, worry, disappointment, and so on. You also open yourself up for great joy, and reward, and satisfaction. But those are easy! It's the downside of relationship that is no fun. So, let me offer these words . . .
If you are feeling the pain of relationship . . .
Congratulations! Seriously . . . congratulations. This means you're doing it right. You are living out the call to invest yourself in the lives of others. You're embracing relationship's ugly under-belly.
Consider the Olympic runner, sprinting toward the finish line. She is experiencing extreme pain, both the burning in her legs and the burning in her lungs. But it's a pain she welcomes as the byproduct of fully investing herself in the race. If she avoided the pain of racing, she would not only lose the race, but it would be said of her that she is really no racer at all.
The pain, and frustration, and, yes, even the disillusionment you experience as a result of being in relationship with teenagers is a sign you're doing it right. It means you are fully invested in their lives. And this is a good thing.
If you are not feeling the pain of relationship . . .
If you're not experiencing the pain or frustration of relationship, it may be because you have extraordinary students that never let you down. It could mean this. But it's probably more likely that you aren't fully investing yourself in their lives. Whether this is done out of fear of being hurt, or out of apathy, or even because of burnout, it may be a beneficial thing for you to step back and re-evaluate your commitment to your calling. Because if you're shying away from investing in the lives of your students, you're doing them and you a great disservice.
God crafted us for community. Discipleship is supposed to be based on the foundation of legitimate relationship. If this isn't happening, you might be doing more harm than good.
Let's all let Paul's words be a measuring stick for us. Let's think about our relationships and make sure we are as invested as we should be in the personal and spiritual needs of our teenagers.