I don't think I'm "called" to youth ministry. It was never something I saw myself doing. I am not one of these goofy, laid-back people who are super-relatable and always know the right thing to say. In fact, I'm basically the exact opposite of those kind of people. I'm occasionally intimidated by teens and their "coolness", and I often don't know what to say to some of the common teen woes of parent troubles, boyfriend troubles, school troubles. (I'm almost frustrated by my squeaky-clean upbringing! Another conversation for another time . . .) Youth ministry is outside of my skill set and outside of my comfort zone.
Nevertheless, by sheer convenience I have found myself a youth leader in our church's youth group. I've officially been on the team since September, but it's only since our rough patch in November that I've really felt like I've come to be a contributing member. And as one of the two college students on a panel of mostly +40 adults, I've found that it's been nearly effortless to connect with the students, many of whom were my peers not two years ago. I love how they let me laugh with them, how they tell me about their weekends, how they participate in our discussions about what the Christian walk ought to look like.
On the one hand, youth ministry is one of the most brutal callings anyone could accept. It's a long row to hoe, filled with emotional booby traps and cutting hypocrisy. I was recently a teenager, I know this stuff! And the people who tolerated my foolishness, stubbornness, and self-indulgence were absolute saints with infinite patience. But on the other hand, there's is no blessing and reward like seeing teens walking with Jesus. It sends shivers down my spine, to see students encouraging one another and asking excellent questions and reaching out to their peers in truth.
There is a season for everything, and it would seem that this is my season for youth ministry. Time to level up and approach my time here less with an attitude of passive involvement and more of an attitude of passionate commitment! And though my youth ministry involvement will probably end when my undergraduate student status does, I'm determined to soak in all the lessons here that I can. Learning how to love people, how to live like an example, how to give wise advice, and how to walk in humility as opposed to hypocrisy.
Because I've never thought of myself as "called" to work with teenagers, I've fallen into rather rote and reactionary approach to my role in the group. I'm a little bit of a warm body, to supervise these nuts kids, to lead small group discussions, to teach big group lessons, to perform auxiliary odd jobs for events, to introduce and integrate new kids. I'm following a function rather than a vision. But oh, shouldn't it be so much more?! Girls who need mentorship, students who need prayer, teens who need encouragement. Though my involvement is only a season, that does not mean I'm justified in being a paper doll leader, a placeholder.
I remember when I was in junior high. I remember Laurie, who drew me in when I was just a sixth grader, who fueled my desire to grow and who taught me so much about living for Jesus. Laurie who got burnt out from giving so much of herself to youth ministry. If I could have that passion and vision for the students I know and love, that would be true service to God. Because He's who it's all for. Youth ministry is not about me, it's not about our church, it's not even really about the students. It's about Him, and it's time for me to start serving like I understand that.