Making it Through the Down Times
I've been in youth ministry for nearly 15 years. And while it is a source of joy in my life, there have been occasions where I've asked myself, “Why do I even bother”? Whether it's circumstances at the church going poorly, or feeling like most students see church as just another extracurricular option, or dealing with those parents for whom nothing is seemingly ever good enough, there are always things that will discourage our desire to keep on keeping on.
I've had my share of these moments over the years. And hopefully, I've learned from them.
During these times try to keep these things in mind:
Remember Your Call
When I meet someone for the first time and tell them what I do I often get asked, “Why would you choose to do that?” (Do other people in other jobs get asked that question as frequently?) I always respond with, “I didn’t choose it.” God, Himself chose and called you specifically to work with the teenagers at your church. Before the beginning of time you were set apart to minister to and lead students. This fact alone has carried me through some hard times. When nothing in your ministry is going the way you want it to remember that God is the One that called you to do it and success is measured in obedience to Him and nothing else.
Hold Onto The Life Changing Moments
When working with teenagers it is inevitable that things will veer off course. You'll have in mind this picture of what you want your ministry to be, but the reality and your mental picture sometimes seem to be at polar extremes. You'll face difficulties that really make you question what you're doing. (This has to be one reason why burnout among youth ministers is so high.) During these times, hold on to those moments where you know beyond a shadow of doubt God used you to make a difference. Remember the times you got to witness kids meeting Jesus for the first time. Remember the time that high school student took it upon himselves to start mentoring a junior high student. Remember all the “Thank you's” that parents have pulled you aside to whisper. Heck, while you're at it, Remember the Titans (great movie). Even if these events are few and far between, they're enough to keep you going.
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Your Example Always Means More Than You Realize
It’s a funny thing about youth ministry. Some of the students that give you the most trouble when they first become a part of your youth group often become some of the strongest leaders. It may feel as though you've wasted years investing in a guy who couldn’t care less about who God is because he is only at church to meet girls. Then, all of a sudden Jesus reveals Himself and it as if this kid has soaked up everything you've ever said. Even when it feels like you're making no difference at all God is at work through you.
It’s Not About You
At some point we have to understand, and I mean truly understand, that serving God is not about us. Over half of the Old Testament prophets had job descriptions set by God that I would want no part of. Would you be excited if God asked you to go and marry a prostitute so that you could be an example of His forgiveness? Really? The same could be said for the New Testament followers as well. Anyone signing up to take on Paul’s role? The truth is being called by God to lead for Him is almost never a glamorous position. But it's always an honor.
I'll close this with the words of Paul, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”