warning: dangerous road ahead

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Ever had one of those nights, maybe even a year or so in ministry when you new there was a danger lurking out there, somewhere beyond sight, but nevertheless out there somewhere. And when you hit it, you knew it. Driving home tonight from our devotional, I hit a pot-hole in the road. I didn't really see it. But when we hit, we sure felt it. This is a great descriptor for what happened in our student ministry. I will call these moments or seasons "pot-holes." We all have "pot-hole" ministry moments. I had one this evening.
I need not go into specific detail. But, the signs for trouble have been there for awhile. I have seen it brewing. I think in hindsight I could have been more proactive.
Despite the hole in the road, and the jarring that accompanies such a surprise. After some cooling down, I left the kids alone for a short time on their own. When I got back to their group, they were singing. Even though there are some issues we will be addressing in our youth ministry,  I was encouraged to hear them singing, and praying without my direction. I think they knew they had pushed me over the edge and the older students were standing up to take the lead. Even though our group isn't perfect, I wouldn't trade them for another group.
So, what I am asking from ya'll is how do you handle the "pot-holes" in your ministry? I would like to offer some suggestions and then hear from you:
1. prayer has to be essential -- I think in moments like these, we have to go to the Father with our hurts and frustrations. If we don't immerse ourselves in prayer we run the risk of becoming bitter and disenchanted with ministry and with adolescents.
2. recognize the source -- As soon as I stepped out of the church van, I was bombarded with several issues from some students. Issues I wasn't aware of or apart of. I was cornered and dumped on. When I confronted the selfish attitudes that permeated the moment, it feel on deaf ears. I noted to recognize the source. I don't think all issues that arise are just due to the teen years. We musn't forget we are in engaged in a spiritual battle (Gal. 5:17; cf. Gal. 6).
3. don't give up on the rough ones -- We don't fully recognize the impact we have on young people's lives. Most days I wonder what in the world I am doing. I ask the question often, "why am I doing this?" I am sure most of us have asked the same question. We must remember youth ministry is a calling, and our competence comes from God  not in our Bible college degrees, or our years in ministry (2 Cor. 3:5). We won't see immediate results in the lives of our kids. We will see some results, sometimes. Each student is different.
4. youth ministry is tough -- Many of us our underpaid, work long hours, and go underappreciated. To this I would say "welcome to the crazy, upside down world of youth ministry." When we recognize how ill equipped we are to minister in our own strength we have arrived in a welcome place. A place where we are able to focus, not on ourselves, but on Christ. I am convinced that it is the norm to be beaten up emotionally, to carry the burdens of our teens and families, and to question our calling and our impact. Don't misunderstand, I am not advocating self-depreciation here. I think to many youth ministers fall into the trap of thinking that they are God's gift to youth ministry. If we think we are the gift, we will totally miss the greatest gift: a relationship with Christ and sharing that with students.
5. don't forget to take time for you and your family -- In this crazy world of youth ministry we need to spend quality time with our wives and children. They need to interact with us in a lot of settings outside of church related events. We need our family. Also, in taking time for ourselves, don't forget to exercise and eat well. We tell our youth group all the time not to fill their minds with the junk food of our culture. Why should we fill our bodies with junk too?

9 Responses to “warning: dangerous road ahead”

  1. Anonymous Aaron 

    Can I say "Amen Brother"?! It's never an easy road. But it's worth it. I love when students "get it" on their own, and make the right decisions, follow God with their heart, and show love toward each other. Prayer is a must isn't it!

  2. Anonymous Tim 

    I'm fortunate to have a Sr. Pastor I can talk to about everything that happens in the youth ministry. He's pretty wise and always has good insights into my situations.

    I learned this past month that it's always good to keep the Sr. Pastor updated on everything that takes place in the youth ministry so when things go sour with someone or something, the pastor already knows all the background and has seen it progress with you. It really saved my back this time.

  3. Anonymous Chad Nall 

    Amen, Jason. I currently feel as if I'm on a dirt road filled with potholes. Sometimes we go through these seasons where it seems so tough. Maybe it's in these times we really learn what we're called to be. We're reminded in these moments that this isn't about us.

  4. Anonymous muzik316 

    The 1st church I ever took a youth position at was my last. I actually served as both youth & music minister. (Part-time in both positions) We all know there is no such thing as part-time ministry. Since this time I have not been on staff at a church, it’s been over 3 years. I talked about the whole situation with the family pastor at the church we go to now and he really helped me understand the situation better, he is also mentoring me & helping me to focus my relationship better with God. I’m going to send our youth pastor over this way because I believe he could benefit from having other youth pastors to talk with, who can relate to him etc... I also added this site to my blog so others may find there way here as well. Keep up the good work guys.

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