i am not worthy of this calling.
i have this thought on a daily basis – sometimes multiple times a day – and it burdens me. i am not worthy of leading anyone anywhere, let alone toward the only perfect being to ever live. there is no reason i should be allowed to be a voice for students. i’ve got junk in my life just like they do – i mean c’mon, i almost swore in that last sentence! i have no business even writing this blog! i don’t even use proper capitalization!
i’m not sure if you’ve ever felt this way. my inkling is that if you’ve been a youth worker for very long, then you have. i constantly feel unworthy. broken. messed up. completely unqualified to be working in “the trenches” of youth ministry. maybe you have too. maybe you haven’t yet. maybe you used to feel it and decided you had to get out of the trenches before it ruined you. maybe you’re toying with that thought right now.
the reality is that none of us are worthy of being His hands and feet. we are not Jesus. we are imperfect people trying our best to model Him in this fallen world we live in, and the moment we think we’re worthy of this calling is the moment we need to reevaluate our heart because somewhere along the way we decided we really were Jesus instead of the cracked and bruised version we truly are.
but here’s the other reality: it’s a calling. there was a moment – maybe 5 or 6 years ago – when i actually thought, “shoot. i could do youth ministry for the rest of my life. i feel God calling me to this!” in retrospect that feels like such a pompous thing to even consider. i actually thought i could be the hands and feet of Jesus on this planet? must’ve been dreaming.
it really is a calling. where were you when you heard God’s soft voice prodding you into life in student ministry? i was in 12th grade in a 15-passenger van on my way back from a middle school event. it wasn’t a monumental evening – probably just a killer scavenger hunt or something – but i heard it. it was God’s voice through one of the adult leaders in our ministry.
“you know, you’ve got the right skills for youth ministry. you ought to look into it more seriously…”
whoa. so it wasn’t my idea after all. it was someone else’s. and it wasn’t really someone else’s either – it was God’s. it was his idea for me from the beginning, and i think it is his plan for you too.
you know what else reminds me that i was made for this? when i get to observe the lives of the students i have watched grow up. sometimes we don’t get to see the fruits of our labor in youth ministry for many years to come. we lead a Bible study, and we think, “i wonder if they even understood that.” or we meet with a student who is going through a tough situation and think, “i feel like my words weren’t the slightest bit helpful.” or someone comes to you grieving and you have nothing to say to them so you think, “i literally just sat there and said nothing.”
but then we hear of those moments years in the future: “remember what you said at Bible study that one day?” or “thanks for helping me out with that one thing.” or “thanks for listening to me vent that one time.” treasure these moments. they are few and far between, but remember them always. they are the fruits of our labor and they remind us that we are following God’s calling. as unworthy and as human as we are – this was God’s plan for us, and these are the fruits of our ministry.
and lastly, remember that God knows the plans he has for you and look forward to what you are yet to accomplish for the Kingdom. after establishing an understanding of why i’m here and what i’ve done, i can regroup and focus on the future. what is my next step in ministry? what does God yet have in store for me? how will he use me next?
for what it’s worth, here is the advice of a broken, imperfect, burnt out and messed up youth worker:
1. understand that you are broken.
2. remember you are called.
3. celebrate where you have been.
4. look forward to where God is taking you on your journey.
those are my daily prayers. actually, not daily. i wish i could tell you i prayed this as often as i feel unworthy, but i can’t. maybe it’s an inverse relationship – the more i pray that prayer, the less i feel unworthy. i think i’ll try it and see what happens.
hopefully this post is an encouragement to you – wherever you are at in your journey in youth ministry. i urge you to not give up. you were made for this. celebrate the past and look forward to what God has in store for you and your ministry.-apc.