How are things going with the youth? How many kids do you have? What events do you have coming up? These are frequent questions that are asked of any youth worker. We try to always make sure we have nice sounding answers to these questions, but in reality sometimes it’s hard to look at the positive. We get weighed down by the amount of youth that are inactive and getting disconnected. We get focused on the empty seats rather than the kids that are there. Especially when the issues revolve around low attendance, it’s so easy for us to internalize the issues and blame ourselves for problems that may be out of our control. There are hundreds of reasons why a youth would choose to become disconnected from the church and most of them have nothing to do with us as the youth worker, but we oftentimes shoulder that blame anyways. We worry if we’ll have enough youth or volunteers to even have the next event, meeting, or program. We get frustrated by the lack of church budget for the youth event, how expensive retreats and gatherings are, or we get downtrodden by looking at our own salary and bills.
In the last blog post, we looked at what we can do when youth “need a win.” As I’ve been thinking more about that concept, I keep coming back around to the idea that we as youth workers oftentimes find ourselves in need of a win just like our youth. Because of all the above pressures and a number of other factors, we don’t handle failure very well. After a week, month, or year of a difficult period in the ministry, we look towards the next event as a chance for a turnaround. Therein lies part of the problem. We may find ourselves classifying a “win” as this huge transformation or change and while we’re waiting for that, we miss a myriad of small but important wins and blessings that God has given us.We as youth workers oftentimes find ourselves in need of a win. Click To Tweet
In my own experiences the past few years, I’ve seen all sorts of these little wins and blessings. One Wednesday, a youth shows up that I haven’t seen in over a year. The next week they bring a friend. An upperclassman asks to start a small group. A parent says that they’re seeing growth in their child because of the confirmation program. A church member sends an encouraging note thanking me for my service to the church. All of these can be missed if I’m only looking for dramatic attendance shift, a huge volunteer team all at once, or e-mails every day about how great things are going.
Christ sets the example in the parable of the shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep in order to find the one lost one. He concludes the parable this way, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). We can rejoice in the seemingly small blessings just like the large ones. We need to rejoice over the one student just like we would one hundred. But as we look at that verse, the issue really isn’t the numbers but what is being rejoiced about, and that is the key for us on this whole subject. The angels rejoice over the God-given gifts of repentance, grace, and salvation. I have to ask myself, what am I rejoicing over? Not that we don’t celebrate in the “wins” that we see in ministry, but there’s something so much greater that we can be celebrating as well.
So we return to the same truths that we landed on when talking about what to share when youth need a win. We need to not only be sharing these messages with them, but also preaching to ourselves. Here’s the simple truth: there will be times that we will do everything right, and many youth still won’t be there or come back. But there will also be times where our personal interactions with the youth, games we play, and discussions we facilitate simply fall flat, and yet they still keep showing up. So what can we depend on? The Word of the Lord, which stands forever (Isaiah 40:8). We can depend on our God who does not change (Malachi 3:6). Our God’s steadfast love never ceases and His mercies never end (Lamentations 3:22).
If we fool ourselves into thinking, I need to make sure I share Jesus with the youth, forgetting the fact that we need His Word just as much as they do, we are missing out on so much. If at our events, in our preparations, and in our office hours we can fill ourselves with Jesus, we can walk away thinking, “This is just what I needed.” Youth ministry goes through all sorts of ups and downs, and so as youth workers, we need something that will last. That everlasting win is only found in Jesus: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). At the end of the day, just like our youth, Christ is all we really need. May we be encouraged not just in the ministry joys, wins, and blessings that we see in the here and now, but be strengthened by the words of Easter victory, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!” (Luke 24:5-6). May we set our hope on the victory that Christ has won over sin, death, and the power of the devil. This win is not just for our youth, but for us as well.