My first year in youth ministry….Part I
We resign. That’s the not so positive phrase that I had to tell our Pastor several weeks ago. There really aren’t any good phrases or words for leaving a position, ministry or otherwise, but it was something that we had to do. Our lives at that time were nothing like what I expected it would be during our first ministry job and it was taking a serious toll on our lives, and on our marriage. We needed to walk away, for us.
I have always heard it said, “When you are not in God’s will or where He needs you, He can make your life miserable.” So after a year at our previous church, after a lot of prayer, after a lot of counsel from other pastors and great men and women of God, Steph and I chose to listen to God and leave the ministry that we had built over the previous year.
We left behind a great group of youth that we had gotten close to. That was one of the hardest things that I have ever done. We had taught them for a year to listen to God, trust in His direction and follow Him, regardless of the cost. How could we ignore the signs and the message that He was giving us and not do what we were teaching the kids each week.
Over the weeks and months of the previous year, I learned a lot. Some things that I learned were very positive in my life and in any ministry plans that God may have for us in the future. On the other hand, I learned a lot about the negative side of ministry that no mentor, book, study, or experience could have prepared me for.
1 – Your study and prep time for group, is not and should never be your quiet time alone with God. Your study material can come out of your quiet time, that time when the voice of God is the most clear, but it should never be the reverse. When my quiet time became slack for just simple busy-ness, work, or ministry planning, my walk suffered greatly. I lost my passion for seeking God and His plans, and thought that I had to focus more on finding study material and fun games for the youth. Huge mistake.
2 – Your family is your first ministry. When ministry takes up more time than you spend with your spouse and family, your home life will suffer and because of that, your ministry will too. Finding the balance between ministry work, family time, study prep time, a regular job, home responsibilities, etc., can overwhelm you. You have to prioritize your time and maintain that balance. Often this will mean doing something that I am not good at, saying no to others to maintain balance with my family life.
3 – Church would be a great place to be if it were not for all of the church members. Youth have several things in them that life hasn’t stolen from them and that many adults are missing. Excitement, imagination, willingness to help. Our youth were called upon to help serve many times over the past year and often, we outnumbered adults. That’s pretty awesome and sad at the same time when you realize we had a group of about 15. Our group, WANTED to go through the bible book of Revelation and many pastors when I asked, would not take an adult group through it. Our group did life together. We danced together in the aisle and WinterJam. We put out pine straw and did landscaping together at our church. We put together buckets of aid for storm victims. We shopped for less fortunate children at Christmas. Our group was willing to leave the four walls that hold up the church roof and would do far more than just send money. I will miss this more than anything.
4 – Parents can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Our very first day, one parent came up to us and told us that she did not need anyone else teaching her kids not to do drugs, not to have sex, etc. At first I was blown away but then we found out she was right. When you have a close relationship with Christ, these things will take care of themselves. Our group did not have a strong faith. When Steph started a girls bible study, some didn’t even know who Esther was. Later on when we were teaching on Samson, some didn’t know who he was but they grew. How many adults can tell you who the churches in Revelation are or what the horses meant? They grew. God grew them and we were blessed to be a part of it.
5 – Sarcasm has no place in ministry. Words can hurt. There are numerous verses in scripture that talk about how damaging the tongue can be. As much as I love to joke around, that is an something that I learned the hard way. When joking with some of the college youth, several comments that I made were taken the wrong way and this damaged my relationship with them. It took months to even begin rebuilding this back and it never was the same again.
6 – You cannot plan too much or too early and regardless of what you plan, things will change. Planning events, study times, mission work is critical. There will always be someone who will be out of town, cant come, cant contribute, even when they know about the event months in advance. You have to plan, and then over communicate the event to others. One pastor told me plan your camp months in advance. When you get to camp, throw those plans out the door because it will never go as planned.
7 – Beach trips are simply that, trips to the beach. Ministry and teaching can happen anywhere but when the focus is on the sand and the water, it won’t be on the message. Plan camps and trips where the focus can be on what it needs to be on, their relationship with Christ.
8 – The value of a mentor outside of your church is priceless. Someone who has “been there done that” is the greatest teaching tool that you will have. It is someone who can tell you what they have done, what the results where and what they would do differently than before. It is also someone who knows when you need encouragement, prayer, and a shot in the arm (thanks Shan!)
9 – There will be nothing greater in your ministry than one of your youth coming to you and saying, “I want to give my life to Jesus.”
10 – The hard work, late nights, time away from doing something that you enjoy is worth it. My goal in life is to make a difference in the life of someone else. When you can look back at a former youth who still calls you one of her mentors, you have made a difference. When you see the life in Christ that you had a part in when they were a youth and now they maintain as an adult, that’s what its all about.
So to Lilly, Austin, Zach, DJ, Alisha, Natalie, Leah, Penny, Kyle, Alex, Stephanie, Abbi, Shelby, Kasey, Tanner, Craig , and the rest associated with Thrive Youth….
Thank you for the memories!
To be continued…
Dear God, the previous year has been interesting to say the least. You have brought us through highs and lows. You have carried us through tragedy, through loss, through disappointment and through achievement. I am in awe of what You are able to do through us. Thank you for this season of rest as You prepare us for the next chapter of our lives