T.M.I. In Your Youth Ministry?
As I interview potential volunteers, I have the opportunity to hear from all different ages and spiritual stages. One statement that usually concerns me when a potential leader approaches me about serving in our girls ministry is when it is evident that she values her life experience as the prime transformational tool she has to offer to students. It sounds like this, "I made ________ (insert unwise choice, bad experience, or addiction) and I would love to share this with girls so they don't do the same thing I did. I really feel like I have a ministry to girls to share this with them."
Now, I don't dismiss this person's heart or call. I don't think that their past experiences are irrelevant. And I don't automatically dismiss someone as a potential leader who may have this position. But I do make sure that this person is partnered with a leader who knows the equation to use when pouring into another's life. What equation is that? Simple . . .
Speak God's truth + live it out consistently = a life worth imitating.
Our stories from our past may be amazing, and in many cases they are indeed powerful. But according to Scripture, that's not the thing the people we minister to are going to cling to:
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.--Hebrews 13:7
Youth ministers, when it comes to recruiting volunteers, there are two important things to consider:
1) will they bring God's Word in contact with students' lives; and,
2) will they live in such a way that demonstrates the working of God's Word in their everyday lives.
It's important for volunteers to share their lives with students, but it's equally important for their past experiences not to become their primary ministry tool. And volunteers, don't forget that the reason we have an opportunity to pour into another isn't just to share our experiences: it's to share God's transforming truth! As we walk through life with our students, we can let them know how God has transformed us and redeemed as is evidenced by comparing our new life with our past experiences. But our students first need to hear His Truth through His Word.
Having said all of this, we don't have to hide our past experiences.
The stories of God walking with us along our faith journey can be highly instructive. But how do we share our life experiences in a way that testifies to God's power to redeem, but does not put an inappropriate amount of focus on us or our past? Here are a few questions to consider:
- Am I sharing this to bring attention to myself?
- Are there parts of this experience that do not need to be disclosed? Is there information that is "too much" for a certain age group to hear?
- Am I sharing this experience because I have been healed, redeemed, transformed or is this possibly a therapy session for me?
- What spiritual truth does this experience reinforce as I mentor this brother or sister in Christ?
Sharing an experience brings a certain level of authenticity, and can be a powerful testimony to God's love and grace. As youth workers, we have to make sure that our stories and the stories of our volunteers serve as reinforcement to the Truth of God and His Word, not as the primary message of our relationship with students.