With your permission, I’d like to share an adaption of the introduction to my book “Uncommon Wisdom from the Other Side: A Senior Pastor Talks Youth Ministry.”
Not because I want to sell you a book
(although, feel free to buy one).
I want to share something so important that I wrote it there, and have written it here.
Thank you for signing up to reach the next generation.
Your heart will gain scars.
You’ll be misled by others.
Close friends will seemingly abandon you.
The resources may run out.
You may fake your faith some days for the sake of others.
Simple things Christians say will annoy you.
The church you serve may appear two-dimensional in your three-dimensional stress.
Students will let you down.
You will disciple at least one Judas.
People will say all kinds of unkind things about you and your family.
And it is the best possible way to live.
It would be easier to just pat you on the back, but you need to know what you’re being patted into.
The reason it’s called “ministry” is because someone is needed to “minister”-which implies a gap exists that needs filling. You may occasionally get applause for doing this, but if you’re looking for it you have things backward.
Trouble will hit.
Relational blood will be spilled.
People you expect to be medics will at times be holding the knife.
And you’ll at times be one of the guilty parties.
If you can see this for what it is and enter the chaos glued to Jesus, you’ll unearth questions about church and ministry you didn’t realize existed.
You’ll also see some things about God you’d like to change, such as how he gets to call the shots on good days and bad days. You’ll later treasure these things because when you aren’t able to answer the “what happens next” question, you’ll start focusing on the “who can I love who is in front of me now” question.
That’s the question that really matters more, anyway.
It’s going to be ugly. Anytime something full of life is born,
there is a big, bloody mess.
Why do we forget this and whine about it when it happens?
Then again… perhaps you feel OK with ministry today and are nodding, assuming you’re ready for whatever comes next.
- Will you keep nodding when your spouse is about to experience a nervous breakdown because of your “calling”?
- Will you keep nodding when your own walk with God feels drier than it’s ever been and you have another message to deliver?
- Will you keep nodding when the bliss of working inside the four walls of a church starts to feel like solitary confinement?
Such hardships may not dominate, but there will likely be seasons when everything seems crazy and Jesus will need you to help redeem even the “redeemed.”
- This is where what you preach finally gets owned.
- This is where your faith moves from practical ideas about living to oxygen when you’re suffocating.
- This is where you take on Satan, not out of adrenaline, but out of Jesus.
Consider this line from C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters where one demon counsels another on wearing down a man who has given himself to their “enemy” God:
“Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
It’s not my aim to destroy your faith but to ground it in the Lord before it gets destroyed. Ministry will give you every circumstance to abandon what you’re doing because there’s always a seemingly nicer job at a store or restaurant down the street where you can clock in and clock out.
Then again, perhaps you weren’t made to clock in and clock out.
Maybe (just maybe) you will deny yourself, carry your cross, follow Jesus, and experience a resurrection in this generation.
(Note the order of that sentence. It’s what turns you into a battlefield medic for the Church.)
Doing that will unearth more of God than you feel prepared for, which in turn will make you run off screaming or surrendered on your own cross, because you finally see students like he does.
Because youth ministry is ugly and beautiful… all at the same time.
Thank you for loving students!
*Love Tony’s insight on service and youth ministry? Receive his articles every Tuesday when you sign up for the SYM Today Newsletter!*