I am in my tenth month as a paid, full time youth leader. At about month six, I read the book “Help, I’m a Volunteer Youth Worker,” by Doug Fields in order to find helpful hints to put into our training manuals for our volunteer staff. One of his suggestions is to remain a volunteer, because full time youth ministry isn’t what it looks on the surface. Amen Doug, amen. Most youth workers burn out in two years. Ironically, I’ve heard it takes two years to build a youth ministry – no matter what situation you step into.
In ten months, my life has adjusted to look like this:
- I listen to hip/hop/pop radio in my car just to hear what my teenagers listen to
- Television sitcoms have become a staple in our home (in the form of season series DVDs), because sometimes it’s the only way to not think about ministry
- My checkbook is full of debit payments to Starbucks
- I use my mac like a pro, kinda.
- I dream of normal jobs with normal salaries – then remember the Call and how everything is going to be ok
- I’ve grown a thicker skin
- My social life is very different, but I do have friends I can drink a margarita with
It has also taken about ten months to hone in on some of my gifts in ministry. We are blessed with three student ministry paid staff and one intern. Sean and JD are worship super stars, really. I am not. Which is totally fine. I have learned that I am gifted in three broad areas: admin/planning, teaching, and discipleship. I am an overachiever when it comes to admin – communication with parents, quarterly calenders (content included), meetings, communication with our staff, etc. BUT. Nothing will drain me of my passion for student ministries faster than a day at my computer shooting emails and staring at the calendar. I teach OK – I know I’m gifted but I’m definitely in the process of figuring out what that looks like – and it turns out that it looks like tons of preparation and shaking off those nights in front of the teens when I stammer over my own words. I’ve had my share of bombs in the teaching department.
The winner of the three goes hands down to discipleship (picture me jumping up and down as if winning first prize) – because I’ve finally cracked into my niche of ministry that is at the core of my Call. It would have saved me many tears if I’d figured this out sooner, but whatever. Last week I sat down with a group of high schoolers and we had a good heart to heart chat about some of the reasons why they were bored with God, and I came away from the conversation higher than a kite. Not because I was glad that our kids are bored with God, but because I felt like God grabbed my shoulders and said, “See? This is why you are here. Take these apathetic kids, and make disciples out of them.” Done. This is something I can get my heart to hold on to.
The beautiful part of ministry is the opportunity to stare into the faces of hurting people and love them toward Jesus. This is true whatever the vocation. Mine happens to be with teenagers. Broken, depraved, unknowing, beautiful adolescents who might some day come to church with a heart to meet Jesus.