If you’ve been involved in youth ministry in just about any capacity for very long, you know 2 feelings all too well… The feeling that nobody is listening & the feeling that you’re on your own. You can hear the words coming out of your mouth. You know it’s English (or whatever the first language is of the students you’re with) & you’ve even taken out the confusing words, but as you look at your kids, the glazed eyes looking back toward you (or not) cause you to wonder, “Is anybody listening?” Sometimes, I’m amazed when a student that seemed completely checked out was actually paying more attention than a hawk locked in on an absent minded jackrabbit. But still, the feeling persists that what I’m saying just isn’t getting through.
|Img: “Let God Speak” via Justin Stagge on creationswap.com|
Couple that with another feeling I often come across and you have a train-wreck waiting to happen – the feeling that we’re on our own. It’s just you and a couple semi-neurotic volunteers to ensure the spiritual well-being of the next generation. Where is the rest of the church? Why don’t the other leaders care more about the teens? Why is the single ladies’ knitting guild so concerned about the 20 year old carpet? Stain is ok for the benches and windows, why not the floor, right?
I know that sounds a little over dramatic, but feelings aren’t objective. Feelings don’t just stick to the pure, untainted facts. Sometimes, they lie. But, the truth in your ministry is they ARE listening. They may not be hanging on every word you say, but they are hearing the message of your life loud and clear. The truth in your ministry is you’re NOT alone. The leadership may need some explanation of why you just spent $200 with your kids at a pizza place, but they’re not against you. The people in your church may not be knocking down your door to volunteer for the next youth group lake party, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care.
The Spirit pulled Ezekiel aside to begin his prophetic ministry and God gave him some words that we need to live by in youth ministry:
Do not fear them… Do not be dismayed by their dark scowls… You must give them my messages whether they listen or not.
To be clear, these messages that God wanted Ezekiel to deliver weren’t received as good news around the campfire. He warned of impending judgment and implored the people to repent of their rebellion and turn once again to their God. Ezekiel was opposed… fiercely. God told him people would reject what He had to say, their hard hearts unwilling to accept his instruction.
But look, I have made you as hard and stubborn as they are. I have made you as hard as rock! So don’t be afraid of them… Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. Then go to your people in exile and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’
I wish every preacher, pastor, teacher, youth speaker, & volunteer would hear that well. Let His words sink deep into your own heart first… Then go. Then speak. Then teach. We only have something worth saying after we’ve allowed His message to take root within us. Don’t just speak because it’s Sunday (or whatever your main teaching day is). Speak because His message has grown within you to the point where you can’t hold it in. Teach because there is no levy strong enough to hold back the grace you’re being given. Then, you’ll have something to say worth hearing and you’ll know you’re not standing alone.