I’ve been a volunteer in youth ministry longer than I’ve been on staff. And being a volunteer means doing youth ministry while also working, being a wife and parent, running a household, building friendships, and many, many more things.
That means youth ministry does not always come first. Nor should it.
But sometimes when we can’t put as much hours or dedicate as much attention to our youth group as we want (or as we should, says that little voice in your head), guilt rears its ugly head.
I’ve been there. Those weeks where I had planned to prepare the small group study, only to have life happen, resulting in a frantic 5 minute-prep. The youth service where I was supposed to speak, but my son got very ill. Obviously, I canceled and the pastor had to step in. Oh, I could fill pages with examples and so could you probably.
Here’s the thing. That guilt that’s telling you you failed? Ditch it. No seriously, ditch the guilt. Right now.
You’re human, so you’re not perfect. Who cares? Nobody expects you to be and if they do, they’re the ones with a big problem.
Life happens. And sometimes, life takes priority over youth ministry.
I have never regretted staying home with my son and canceling my talk. So the youth service wasn’t as great as we’d hoped because of that—if that was even the case. My priority is my own kid, not my students.
And God doesn’t need ‘perfect’ to give His blessing. We’ve had services that could only be described as mediocre, but with fantastic spiritual impact. We’ve had small groups that started without much planning from me or my husband, but that resulted in a ‘holy’ evening.
Granted, we’ve also had unprepared evenings where it just didn’t work, where our lack of preparation was clearly felt. So what? So we explain to our students that we did the best we could. And you know what? They understand. They’re teens, they know all about being unprepared!
Allowing a constant influx of guilt is harmful to you and to your youth ministry. It will reinforce feelings of failure, of lacking self-worth. It will allow doubt in, cause you to question your gifts, your calling, maybe even your faith.
Extend the grace towards yourself that you would show others. Because seriously, if another youth leader came to you to admit she didn’t have time to prepare small group, would you condemn her?
Ditch the guilt. Free yourself to serve as best as you can, allowing God to do the rest.