I’ve been in ministry at my church for seven years.

One thing I love about having been in the same context for a while is that alumni from my ministry are starting to serve with me as adult leaders.

One of those leaders was a senior my first year at my church. That year was, in a word, ROUGH.

Recently, while hanging out around a campfire, my teens asked this young leader about what our youth ministry was like when she was in it.

She shared how she’d had a different youth pastor each of her four years of high school and talked honestly about how those constant transitions impacted her class and contributed to the difficulties we faced that first year.

After hearing about how hard that year was, several teens asked for my perspective. One said, “That sounds awful. So why’d you stay?”

Initially, I was intrigued to hear such a question from a teen. But then it occurred to me how much of this teen’s life is fleeting. In so many ways, this teen is far more accustomed to people leaving than staying.

So I told him about how I believe the best ministry is long-term.

I told him how despite the struggles of that year, I cared deeply about those involved in our youth ministry.

And I told him about how I stayed because I felt supported by my colleagues and in particular, the pastors of our congregation. I then recounted how, in the midst of one of the roughest weeks of that year, our senior pastor called my husband to check in with him and see how he was doing. Because of that simple act, we felt deeply cared for and supported.

What’s more, by that point, I’d worked at enough churches to know that no church was perfect. We knew that if I left my position, we’d simply be exchanging one set of difficulties for another.

What we didn’t know is whether or not we’d find the kind of love and support we had in the midst of our current difficulties. That love and support was worth a lot to us. Truth be told, it’s a big part of why I’m still at my congregation today.

And that’s something I want my teens to know because one day, a church will frustrate them. 

And when that happens, they’ll be temped to leave. 

As they consider whether to stay or go, I hope they’ll remember a conversation from around a campfire in which their youth pastor talked about why she chose to stay at her church – despite the difficulties – and about how glad she was that she did.

Maybe that’ll give them the courage to do the same rather than to set out in search of something they’ll never find: A perfect church.