Doing youth ministry for the past 12 years of my life naturally comes with challenges. One of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced as a youth pastor is balancing the logistics of creating a ministry that is functional, healthy, and hopefully thriving, without being consumed with the “how to’s” as much as I need to be focusing on the “unto whoms”. When I first started doing youth ministry at the age of 16, I was filled with hopes and dreams of seeing the lost come to know Christ. I wanted every person to see the God I was seeing. The Lord spoke into my life of changing the world, one person at a time, and I believed Him with all I that was. Passion came not from numbers, how many kids were raising their hands in worship, or what my fellow youth pastors thought of me. It came from a promise from God. That promise was that if I stayed near to Him, he would give me the heart, passion, energy and opportunity to see the lost found, not for my glory, but His!
I’m not trying to be naïve; I know that there are so many aspects of youth ministry that relate more to the feeling of working a “normal job.” Add that reality to the fact that most of us youth workers are already working a “normal job” on top of volunteering, and it can be incredibly challenging. So how do I create a healthy youth group, work a normal job, keep my passion for the lost, and save the whole world at the same time?!!!! If I had the answer to that question, I would be a multi-millionaire New York Times Best Seller!
Even though I don’t have “THE” answer, I do have a lot of experience and some ideas.
First, stay near to God: A very simple statement to address one of the hardest disciplines we have as humans. I know you’ve probably heard this before, but I’ll say it again, stay near to Him. If you’re tired of hearing that, my point exactly! He is the source of life, vision, hope, and inspiration. If you go on your own strength even for a day it doesn’t take long to get in a bad place. When you fellowship with Him and delight in Him just for Him, not for what He offers you, He will give you all that you need. Not “Your Work” but “His Work”.
Second, do what he tells you: In my experience, when you’re spending a lot of time with God, he likes to stretch you. He will give you ideas on how to reach his kids that might challenge your comfort level. When I have said yes to God and done what he’s asked me, it always fills my passion tank!
Third, regularly go love on lost people: If you want to keep the passion for the lost up, GO SPEND TIME WITH THEM! Getting caught up in the ministry/church bubble is a choice. Break out of the church office regularly and go hang out with “sinners”! If you’re bi-vocational, dedicate at least one hour a week of intentional time to hanging with street kids. If you don’t know where lost and broken teenagers are at go to a local park, school or just tell the police department that you want to help at risk kids and they will gladly point you in the right direction. If you are shy and don’t want to go alone, take a few of your students with you on a regular basis. In my experience, when you spend time with teenagers, you are doing what you were made for and that will bring life!
When I made these things a priority in my life, I personally found so much joy and experienced seeing our youth group dramatically change to almost 50% un-churched teenagers in attendance.