I don’t always love ministry.  No way.

You are right…ministry can be a ton of fun and really rewarding.  It is a blast doing goofy games and letting the kid part of me out. It is really incredible to share a Bible story with a kid who has never heard it before.  I can’t explain the depth of joy I feel when a kid I care about takes a step forward with Jesus.

However.

My first year serving as a professional youth worker…

Really Sucked!
There just isn’t a better way to say it. Yeah, I had a honeymoon phase where everything was awesome, I danced on clouds, and rainbows came out of my eyes. But then reality hit. This job was hard. These kids desperately needed Jesus, and they didn’t even know it.

And somehow…. somehow, I’m supposed to help transform them from a smelly junior high kid into a lifelong follower of Jesus who is Christian-y and ready for college?

What?!?

I can remember days when things went so wrong:

  • My games were disastrous.
  • My awesome comparison of the Trinity as a 3-headed monster was…awful. (Yes, sadly, I did that).
  • No one came forward at the altar call.
  • A kid I really cared about decided he wanted nothing to do with us anymore.

I remember regularly going home at night after ministry and sitting in my car for hours. I would thank God that I was the longest number of hours away from having to go back and do it again. I felt super heavy for these kids, and I was overwhelmed by my responsibility to help them.

But then…
A few of the kids started “getting it.” They had moments where their face lit up and something clicked, and they took a step forward in their relationship with Christ. It was messy, and many “success” stories weren’t ones that were easy to express to others – it is hard to get up in front of a church on Sunday morning and say “Hey, little Johnny decided to not use the “F Word” so much!”

Yet, it was all the little things that mattered.

On top of that, I learned more and more the “skill” and how to “do” youth ministry. Over the years I learned that ministry wasn’t about the quality of my games or how many sardines I put in the blender (though, those skills do matter), ministry is about showing kids Jesus’ authentic love.


The Truth Is, Youth Ministry is Hard.

Yes, I went to Bible College and had some training. However, I was not really prepared for what “real ministry” is like. It can be messy, heartbreaking, and just plain hard.

I didn’t know that the most difficult part of ministry is when a kid never “gets it.” It is beyond painful to see a kid that you love throw their life away and keep repeating devastating choices.

  • It hurts to have a kid you love go to jail.
  • My heart continues to break for a kid who, no matter how hard my wife and I tried to intervene, went back into an abusive relationship.
  • I cried as I stood to deliver the funeral message for a young man that I deeply loved.

Youth Ministry is hard.

But I Keep Coming Back for More
Despite the hard parts, I can’t help but to do Youth Ministry. We have the craziest job – trying to change the world with nothing more than some free candy, a messy game, and a prayer.  Even now, 16 years later, I can’t express how hard this job can be.  Yet, I love it.

I love caring for kids and showing them Jesus.

As a kid, struggling through my own pain and darkness, it was a youth minister who showed me Jesus. Everything changed in my soul – and my life is completely different because of it. It was so important for me that I literally can’t help but to do this for others.

What’s your “Why?”
Maybe you started this gig because you were cajoled into it by the Senior Pastor. Maybe you are goofy and think it’s fun to play weird games. Maybe you have felt certain this is what you were supposed to do from birth.  Whatever it is, when we have those moments where it is tough – we must know why we do this job.

What is it for you?  What makes you compelled to continue to love on these kids?

If you are in this role, whether paid or not, and you are struggling…know that you are not alone.  It is a hard job.  It can hurt.  So why do you do it?

Why do you do this job?

In those moments, sitting in my car, I would remind myself of how Jesus changed my life, and how I was called to show young people that their lives could be different. It was this that made me walk back in that ministry room the next week.

If you don’t know “why,” it’s time to dig deep and figure it out, or you won’t be able to make it. 

Comment below….What’s your “Why?”