It was 10 years ago that my pregnant-for-the-first-time wife and I moved to Auburn, NE to begin our first full time adventure in youth ministry. We learned so much in our time there about life, each other, the church, and ministry. I can honestly say that our time there led to as much personal and spiritual growth as any other time in our lives.
It was a great time, but looking back I wonder if what I did there best, I did on accident. Or at least it was just something that I did naturally without trying to think about it and figure it out. One of those things you just know how to do, but can’t explain how or why you know how to do it. I had no solutions to the problems I was facing. No experience to tell me what to do to reach desired outcomes. So I made sure to stay out of God’s way and let Him work. I knew I would be wholly inadequate for the task at hand if I were to rely on myself – so I didn’t.
When we left Auburn, at least from our new outside perspective, the youth ministry didn’t even slow down for a breath. The team that had been working with me to lead the youth ministry continued to lead the youth ministry. Most of them still are (and leading well I’d add). But I don’t remember doing anything specific to assemble that team. A few of them were there when I got there, others came alongside at other points… but I don’t ever remember taking any specific actions to pull them together. Maybe I did and just don’t remember, but I think the more likely case is that God was doing the pulling. He’d given me and them a vision for what the youth ministry could be and those who shared that vision worked to make it reality.
These days I’m finding myself trying to figure things out a lot more. For whatever reason, I think I felt like I had to perform here and prove myself, so I slipped into relying on myself to find ways to get where I thought we needed to be, then into frustration when things didn’t go the way I thought they would. Moron! I’m done.
God has given me a vision for student ministry that doesn’t fit the traditional youth ministry mold. I want to see students connecting with Jesus by connecting to His Body, not just each other. I want to create moments where students encounter the true and living God and give themselves to Him in worship. I want to see dead students resuscitated and learning to breathe the Spirit of Life.
You may think that after 10 years of doing this, I’d have this youth ministry thing figured out a little better that this post makes it sound. On my weaker days, I think that, too. Then I remember how experimental youth ministry can be – like a research and development department for the Body of Christ. I’d appreciate your prayers as I search God for the way forward and the freedom to keep experimenting together.