Lie #1: Youth Ministry is Easy
I’ve been confronted lately with some of the false assumptions I had about youth ministries coming into the major a few semesters ago. I’d bought into lies and stereotypes about what it means to be a youth pastor, the type of person you have to be to be in youth ministry, where most of the time and energy in youth ministry goes… And as I’ve been confronted with the truth to answer some of these lies, I’ve had to rethink my reasons for pursuing youth ministry and the role I see myself playing in the future.
So, first lie to tackle: youth ministry is easy.
Imagine entering a new country, with its own language, cultural practices, and dress that is constantly changing. Now imagine being asked to teach to a group of individuals in this country, half of whom were in attendance because they were required to be, the other half of whom were in attendance because another person in the class promised them they would have fun. Next, after finally getting through your talk, you are confronted with the fact that, of the small group of students who paid attention to your lesson and who got your point, they would be taught the exact opposite of what your lesson was about for the next 90% of their week. And on top of that, when your students don’t acquire and apply your lesson, your inbox and voicemail fills up with complaint, concerns, and “friendly suggestions.”
Now, this may not be the exact reality of the average youth pastor in the average week, but it’s pretty close. Youth ministry is hard. Youth pastors and volunteers are being asked (either explicitly or implicitly) to connect with the most advertised-to generation in history, a generation used to being sold messages and promises and change. And they’re bring about change and positive results after a few hours a week over the course of only four (maybe six) years. And over the same few years, students will be confronted with three messages in favor of drug and alcohol use, promiscuity, and consumerism for every one message we try to get across to them about the importance of purity, making good choices, and living for Jesus in a postmodern culture. Talk about one step forward, two steps back.
This past week, me and two other Bible majors here put together a 2 year curriculum plan, covering all the topics the ministry would cover in teaching, major events contributing to those teaching topics, and the overall goals for just those two years. The entire process only took a few hours, and with each topic and event we had to consider what our students needed to hear, what they wanted to hear, and how we could possibly bridge that gap. The process was draining, but it was also exciting. Two years of teaching and planning is a lot to consider. And then to think that this is a process that continues over and over as students move through your ministry is a bit overwhelming. But it also means two years of speaking truth, demonstrating love, and encouraging growth in the lives of students. And that process continues as students discover and grow in the love and life of Jesus and the life He has for students.
So no, youth ministry is NOT easy. It demands foreign-language skills, a cross-cultural ministry mindset, and endless all-nighters and caffeine-powered events. But youth ministry IS challenging, and it IS rewarding. It’s worth the uphill climb to watch and be a part of the process of students discovering, rediscovering, and learning to flourish in the love and work of Jesus in their lives.