The Atom is a comic book hero who has mostly been known for his ability to change the size of his body from normal to microscopic, so small that he could even travel through phone lines. He always managed to save the day no matter what size he had to be. The one limitation Adam (clever I know) had was that he could never grow bigger than his original size…he could only go smaller.
Serving in youth ministry it is easy to feel big at times, as your church may see you as a hero for handling the church’s students, and the parents of those students can at times see you as a saint for putting up with their kids, but truthfully no one works with students to feel ‘big’ about themselves, so what’s our motivation for doing this? We must remember that ‘I’ am not the answer to a problem in anyone’s life (family, students, church, etc.), Jesus is! There are many areas and opportunities where we need to become small in our ministries, but here is one way this ‘BIG’ youth pastor became small and why it is important.
Here is a conversation I had with a colleague three years ago.
COLLEAGUE: Matt, why are you in youth ministry?
ME: I am here to come along students and show them that God loves them
COLLEAGUE: How do you do that?
ME: By showing them in God’s word that He loves them
COLLEAGUE:What do you want your student’s to know when they move on from your group?
ME: That they were loved
COLLEAGUE: By who?
ME: By myself and by God
The conversation continued and I was getting kind of annoyed and a bit threatened with all of the questions, but at the end of the lengthy discussion my friend stated, “did you realize you didn’t say the name of Jesus or mention his sacrifice on the cross once?” I quickly answered back and assured him that I knew about that, to which he just as quickly responded, “but do your students?”
After our conversation I was extremely upset that He didn’t realize that when I said God I was meaning Jesus as well, but either way it was at that moment that I had what I refer to now as a gospel encounter. Questions began to fill my head; what were my students learning from me? Did the students fully understand what Christ’s sacrifice for our sins meant? Did they know that they needed a savior, not just a friendly Youth Pastor? Did they see Jesus as the ultimate teacher that they could always learn from? Finally, who were they putting their hope in, Jesus or me? At this point I saw that I needed to become small and realized that Jesus is way more interesting than I am and has no problem bringing people to Himself, but it is because of His grace that he wanted to use me at this time. It would now be Christ that I would preach intentionally not just implied, because the fact is that students will be able to stand on His name, His life, His example, His hope, and His grace, rather than my own.
Like Captain Atom I have had to become small to help get involved in situations, but I don’t do it because I can, but because I must! As a youth pastor I have this special opportunity because of Christ, to equip students to fall in love with Him and follow His example. That is where they will find their identity, hope, and freedom, in Him alone, all the days of their life.
I love being a youth pastor, but my motivation is no longer in being a hero to a parent or student, or even being known as a clever guy. Instead, I find my everything in the Godman Jesus, as I now purposely present weekly to the students His example, death, burial, and resurrection. My motivation and attitude is much like that found in John 3:25-30…’He must increase, but I must decrease.’ No longer will I say how great is our youth group…INSTEAD, we will acknowledge as a group how great our God truly is, “for from him and through him and to him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.”
Matt Johnson is the High School Pastor of Catalyst at Coquitlam Alliance Church in of all places, Coquitlam B.C.