A Message To Youth Workers Who Are Struggling

A Message To Youth Ministers Who Are Struggling

I talk to a lot of youth ministers who have been doing youth ministry a long time. 10 or 15 or 20 years. And the more I talk to these youth ministers, the ones who’ve really been in the game a while, the more stories I hear of people who at one time or another were completely disillusioned with youth ministry.

They were worn out, beat up, and frustrated. Over-worked. Under-appreciated. And deflated by the general sense that what they were doing may not matter that much in the lives of many of their students.

But, you know what? Instead of walking away they stuck it out. And here’s the cool thing: In so many of these stories, the individual WANTED to leave. He or she wanted so badly to call it quits but didn’t because he or she didn’t feel like God was giving him or her permission to do so. Through prayer, these folks realized that God had not released them from their call. And so, they stuck it out. They GUTTED it out. Sometimes they struggled for years. But now, these youth workers are 3 and 5 and 10 years removed from their low point, still doing youth ministry. Still impacting lives.

You cannot imagine how common this story is. I hear dozens and dozens of iterations of this each year, story after story of men and women who traveled through the rough times and made it through without giving up. The craziest thing is that for many of these folks their situations didn’t change. But their perspective did.

I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that these youth ministers are my favorite ones. There is a richness and depth to them and their ministries that only comes from persevering through the tough times. They have an amazing perspective on life, faith, and ministry. They are collectively the best youth ministry resource I know of.

Are their youth ministries perfect now? Do they feel fully appreciated? Are all of their kids spiritual giants? I doubt it. And I bet they’re not immune to the occasional period of doubt or frustration.

BUT I THINK THE ONE SECRET THEY’VE LEARNED IS THAT GOD’S TRUE CALL ON THEIR LIFE ISN’T PERFORMANCE, BUT FAITHFULNESS. AND THAT’S A PRETTY AWESOME PLACE TO BE.

So, take encouragement today from their example. If you’re in the midst of a trying season, don’t give up yet. Pray and listen. And don’t make a move until you know it’s God’s will. God may very well be leading you away from youth ministry. But He may also be leading you to suffer through a period of real trial because He has much, much more to teach you. And He knows that the trials are what will strengthen you for a future of powerful, meaningful ministry.

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Soul Care: Gazing at Trees

Article found at YouthWorker

Nicolas Herman was born in 1614 in eastern France. His family was extremely poor, which forced him to join the army. During his time in the Thirty Years’ War, Herman had an unusual experience. Staring and gazing at a tree with no leaves or fruit, somehow Nicolas intuitively sensed God’s redeeming grace and love, knowing the tree eventually would spring forth with new life—and his life could be transformed the same as the tree’s.

Nicolas Herman is known today as Brother Lawrence.

Following his death, friends put together his letters and crafted the writings into a book, which is today one of the most popular and profound books ever written, The Practice and Presence of God.

Brother Lawrence’s journey began as he focused on a tree, doing the hard work of silence, prayer and a radical discipline of thankfulness. As Brother Lawrence worked in the kitchen of the monastery, he came to see the beauty of seeing Jesus in every moment.

Practicing the Presence of God

Whether working in a kitchen, preparing a sermon, or cleaning one’s house, Lawrence believed no matter how big or small the task, “we can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”

Concepts such as being prostrate on the ground, gazing at trees, listening for Jesus in the now, all can be difficult. Or maybe we have made it too complex. Try this: Go outside and simply listen to the birds chirping. While you’re in a boring meeting, start looking for the presence of God. As you wake up, shower, wash the dishes, and get ready for bed, see Jesus in every moment.

Brother Lawrence writes, “I began to live as if there were no one save God and me in the world.” Now, personally speaking, that is hard, to see only God and me.

Yet, there is something to it. Matthew 17 records the Transfiguration narrative in which Jesus takes Peter, James and John to the mountain alone…that is until two great leaders of the past show up, namely Moses and Elijah. Peter thought it would be a good idea to honor Jesus, Moses and Elijah when suddenly a voice from the cloud spoke. “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” Fear gripped the disciples, and they hit the ground. Jesus told them to get up and have no fear.

I love verse 8: “And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”

They saw only Jesus. It seems as if this Bible passage is what Brother Lawrence was speaking of: the ability to tune out all distractions, all hindrances, and only see Jesus.

Is this a hard thing for you do? Why not try an experiment when you wake up tomorrow morning? Set your heart and mind to see only Jesus. Start with baby steps. Ask Jesus to be present. Invite Him to the breakfast table. Read a devotional. Sing in the shower. Abstain from talk radio on the way to work. Slow down. Settle down. Meditate on a passage of Scripture. Take a slow walk in the woods. A famous line from Dallas Willard says, “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” Eliminate hurry, ruthlessly.

How do we care for our souls? How do we eliminate hurry? I suggest you begin with gazing at a tree. Somehow, in a mysterious way, end up only seeing Jesus. As Brother Lawrence indicated, our souls only need Jesus.

David Olshine is the director and professor of Youth Ministry, Family and Culture at Columbia International University in South Carolina. He is the author of the new Studies on the Go: James, 1-2 Peter and 1-3 John (Zondervan/Youth Specialties).

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