In the last decade there have been many times I have quit Youth Ministry. There are moments in life I have started my day thinking, “I just want to go find a 9 to 5.” Or maybe I could find a job where there is such a thing as “being off the clock.”
There are nights that I get home around midnight thinking I have to get up and do this all over again. Or before I teach all I can think about is “I cannot wait until tonight is over because I am so exhausted from the last 3 nights of already being out late at night”.
All the while I’m missing the whole point of what a privilege it is to get to teach God’s word to young people every week. There are weeks when I work hard at running a volunteer team, or managing our small group ministry, or planning the next big event or program, you name it, only to have everything not work out the way that I had envisioned so I start to feel like a failure. And there are so many more: tough leadership decisions that require criticism management, budget problems, unhappy parents, unhappy students, numbers falling, camp planning trouble, a lack of volunteer help, and so on.
My guess is that you could keep that list going yourself because many of you share in this experience of running on empty and feeling alone during the tough times of youth ministry. In the middle of the drought, in the moments of feeling like a lone leader that is failing – almost every time I find that it is because I am trying so hard to do so much with my own strength. I get caught up in thinking that everything is on my shoulders and that everything rises and falls on me. I would guess that this is true of many youth workers. We fall into a trap of relying on ourselves and not the Lord. So here are a few suggestions for surviving the storms of youth ministry:
Find your strength in the Lord
This is by far the most important thing to remember. We have to stop trying to do everything ourselves and go to the Lord for strength and allow Him to guide us in our ministry to teens. If we continue to try to do it ourselves we will fail every time.
Isaiah 40:31 states “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.”
Remember the Good Days
It is often said that youth ministry is a marathon, not a race. Or that youth ministry is a rollercoast with ups and downs. In times of discouragement when you want to just give up remember the ups, remember the changed lives, remember (and reread) the two encouraging letters you have stashed in your desk somewhere. Remember why it is all worth it.
Have Someone to Talk To
Youth Ministry can be a very lonely place at times. Maybe you are constantly running on empty. Find someone that you can talk to, maybe someone who you respect but will also challenge you. Maybe find someone that goes to another church so you (and they) can be free to really share how things are going.
Be a Positive Person
This is another big one. It sounds simple but it’s not. For so many years of my life I was a negative person. This does not mean that you can’t be real about situations but if you push towards being positive in all situations you will often find yourself looking for creative solutions rather than dead end complaints. Complaining makes the situation about you – searching for the positive makes it about Jesus and what he’s already done.
What do you do in these hard times of ministry? Share below.
Kevin Klas has been in youth ministry for 10 years. He is currently the director of student ministries at Lake City Community Church in Lakewood, WA.