Why am I here? Have you ever asked yourself that? Yesterday, in the middle of a run down dollar general, I found myself – a grown man – buying (among other things), some fake plastic poop. Yep. And a reindeer mask. And some ornaments for a game called, I kid you not, “Deck the Balls.” (To be played right before we played Jingle in the Trunk. That’s right, I might have gotten fired last night.)
Anyway, it was one of those moments where I realized, (a) not many adults do this on a regular basis, and (b) I really enjoy it. But it is worth asking – why? Why am I doing this? Why do I care enough to get ideas from teens for an event for their friends – to raise money with them – to shop for hours in holiday traffic – and to attempt to entertain and host 50 teens? Why?
I believe at least some of the answer lies in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
Let’s take just a minute to look at the truth buried in the verse about WHY we do ministry. I hope and pray this will serve to encourage you and remind you of your mission!
It Starts With Love
Because we loved you so much. If you have time, go read the first three chapters of 1 Thessalonians and take note of how often Paul talks about his love and care for this group of people. It is not hard to see that love is a major motivator for all that Paul sacrifices (which is a lot) for those he is ministering to. In these few verses alone he uses the analogy of being a nursing mother, and being a father. It is a good reminder that all ministry flows out of love. Love for God, and love for his children. So when you wonder – why am I doing this? Answer #1 is – God loves them, and so do I!
More Than a Job
we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Sometimes we can become trapped in the avalanch of work, to-do lists, goals, and events. At those times it is powerful to remember this is more than a job! Ministry is one of those rare opportunities where our mission/calling/goals intersect with our friendships. What I mean is, I have found my ministry goals for the teens I work with are more readily accomplished when I’m able to forge real life friendships with them. There is something so powerful about being real, and sharing day to day life with each other. It breaks down some of the barriers that can be formed, and allows a heart connection to grow. This is why one of my favorite parts of ministry is doing ministry TOGETHER. That experience of working together allows us to create memories and stories together, that form a foundation of trust upon which deeper discipleship can be built.
The Work is Worth It
Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day… While everything I said in the previous paragraph is true, the fact remains that ministry is hard work! I want to write this as an encouragement, or reminder, of why you are working those long hours. Extra time. Bi-vocational. Odd hours. It is because of love for your teens. Sometimes when we are down in the trenches of buying plastic poop and organizing minute to win it games, we can forget what it’s all about. But the work isn’t the end. It is a means. Last night several teens showed up who have never been to church or youth group. Never. Imagine that. They felt welcomed. They had fun. And maybe, just maybe, that event will be like an open door to faith for them later in life. Now that will make all the plastic poop buying TOTALLY worth it!
Encouraging, Comforting, and Urging
encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. And finally, I love this summary of ministry. So much of what we do could be summed up into one of these categories. And as we wrap up a year of youth ministry I just want you to pause and think about all the times you partnered with the Spirit to bring encouragement, comfort, and urging to the lives of young people. And let me say, keep up the fight. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. It can get tiring encouraging and comforting and urging – especially when it is the same person and the same issue you just dealt with a week ago! But just remember all your love and work is producing fruit that will last eternally. Maybe even when you are buying plastic poop!
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