We’ve been discussing the future of youth ministry last week and it’s not an easy topic. Looking ahead into what is to come in youth ministry (or what may come), often confronts us with the harsh reality of our current situation. We may be forced to accept that we have indeed made mistakes, that we got things wrong and that that has had consequences.
Thinking about the future of youth ministry has made me realize how many mistakes I’ve made. There are so many things I would do differently if I knew then what I know now.
But you know what? I didn’t. I didn’t know back then what I know now. It’s a process called learning. I did my job to the best of my abilities. I made mistakes, absolutely, but they were never intentional. And God used me nonetheless!
So if taking a good look at the present state of your youth ministry has left you feeling somewhat discouraged, there are two things I want you to do:
1. Evaluate yourself with grace and compassion
Why is it that we can evaluate others with so much more empathy and compassion than we can ever extend to ourselves? We seem to have an intuitive understanding for why others did certain things, made certain decisions, but when it comes to ourselves we judge so harshly.
If thinking about the state of affairs in your youth ministry confronts you with your shortcomings, evaluate yourself with grace and compassion. Accept your own mistakes, forgive yourself, and move on. Don’t hit yourself over the head about what’s in the past, because as much as it is a cliché, it’s also very true: you can’t change the past. And really, guilt is about the most unproductive feeling ever!
And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that God needs you to be perfect in order to use you. He can use the most damaged, faulty, broken vessels…as long as you are willing to let Him use you. God doesn’t need perfection, He needs obedience.
2. Let the present and the future inspire you, not make you scared
I watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy this week in which a patient with a huge tumor on his spinal cord came to neurosurgeon Derek Shepherd. Isaac, the patient, had been to several doctors, but they had all told him the tumor was inoperable. But he had done extensive research and discovered that Derek Shepherd was a man known for taking risks, for seeing ways other doctors didn’t see. So he came to Derek and asked him to operate.
He told Derek that he had chosen him, because Derek was someone who got inspired when facing a difficult, maybe even impossible situation. And just before he goes under, Isaac tells Derek that he shouldn’t get afraid when facing the tumor, he should get inspired.
That’s my advice to you. When facing the future of youth ministry, the changes you may have to make will seem impossible, too big to handle. You may feel like you’ll never be able to pull it off. But remember: our God is the God is the of the impossible. With God on our side, we can do anything. David knew this:
1 I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. 2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. 3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. (…)28 For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. 29 For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. (Psalm 18:1-3, 28, 29 KJV)
So let the future of youth ministry inspire you, not frighten you. Let it inspire you to do better, to change what needs to be changed, to seek God’s will for your youth ministry and to do whatever He asks of you. You are the future of youth ministry, and when you’re acting according to God’s will, not even the gates of hell can stop you.