Often times I get email frustrations or questions from youth workers. Most find me through SYM or PDYM, and I’m happy to listen and pray for their situation. I responded to one last week and thought I might post my response in case it might encourage you … and extend an invitation for you to email me if you need to, too. Obviously, all context and names are removed for the sake of privacy.
1) 8 years is an amazing run at a church. I think that’s remarkable, commendable even … I wouldn’t worry about if that was “long enough” or being a “lifer.” God might be moving you on, and you’ve demonstrated your commitment already for the long haul if you’ve been ANYWHERE for 8 years. A resume with 8 years on it as a youth worker says, “I’ve seen ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ of the church and have lived to tell about it.” It also suggests you understand your calling is bigger than the frustration.
2) Don’t let pressures or problems force you from the church. This is specifically an issue of calling, and anything else will only cloud your judgment. If God is calling you away, then go. If He’s not or is silent, wait it out.
3) Stay in youth ministry. If that is your calling, even if you have to leave your church, stay in the ministry. You might have to take a job in the real world for a while. You’ll probably be SUPER picky about your next church. You might need some time away to heal (your wife, especially). But don’t turn your back on the place where you were created to thrive in. You know it in your heart, don’t you? It’ll take time to get over the hurt, but don’t get jaded or cold. Your heart is bigger than that.
4) Hang in there. Emotionally you’re spent. Remember you got into this to minister to kids, not haggle with demon-possessed-deacons. Smile, laugh, go on a date with your wife, have some great sex, worship God through being on the same team in your marriage. Know that this is a season and God has great things ahead for you. This is all part of the shaping process — I can see it now in hindsight so clearly God using this time in my own ministry past, too.