This is my 15th “tour” of youth ministry duty. During all those years, I’ve experienced great wins and tough losses. I’ve made good friends and have lost some along the way. I’ve done a few things right and a bunch of things wrong. Just ask my commanding officer…er, my senior pastor.
For 15 years, I’ve lived youth ministry every single day. Youth services, graduation parties, funerals, counseling, meetings, van outings, events—I’ve done it, am doing it, and will do it again soon. Today’s juggling act involves trying to get kids to register for camp, while waiting to hear the decision about my proposed youth ministry budget increase.
Like most of you, I’m in the trenches of youth ministry. Here are a few things I’ve learned so far:
• Youth ministry is a battle. This profession, or calling, isn’t for the faint of heart. Although some people are envious of us (“Halo and pizza every night? Sign me up!”), those perceptions are usually far from accurate. Few of us coast through life playing Xbox 360 with Doritos-encrusted fingers. Youth ministry is a spiritual battlefield for the hearts and minds of God’s children. So much is at stake. Our war isn’t with young people who make poor decisions or with parents who refuse to get involved; it’s with the Enemy himself. We will lose battles and be shaken to the core, but we’ll fight on.
• Training is critical. If you’re in day-to-day ministry, I strongly encourage you to make sure you’re prepared for this fight. We’ve lost too many good people already. Also, remember to take a break from the front lines to retreat, read, and repent. Then come back with a renewed passion.
• We’re stronger together. Ministry in the trenches can be incredibly lonely, and that makes us vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. So connect to a network. Ask someone to mentor you. Find someone who’s willing to fight back-to-back with you.
Whether you’ve recently won a major victory or are experiencing the sting of defeat, God has called you to serve teenagers. Whether this is your first tour of duty or you’re a battle-hardened warrior, remember that we’re all in this together.
By the way, I just got word: My budget increase was denied. Oh well, that’s life in the trenches, right? Fight on, my friends, fight on.
This article by Josh Griffin originally appeared in the September/October issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the biggest youth ministry magazine yet? Get in on the fun.