Friday, March 8, 2013

Will you Take the Plunge? A look at the needs and promise of Youth Ministry.

So here goes my first attempt at writing a series. I have been pondering writing a post about youth ministry for quite some time, but problems always seemed to plague my posting of said blog. It was too long, or to condensed, or it would leave unanswered questions, or it just doesn't sit well with me.

Let me give a little background as to why I am going to be writing about youth ministry. Youth ministry is my passion. I love it, I crave it, I enjoy working with students, I love teaching and leading, and I feel called by God to serve Him, by leading teens into relationships with Him and changing their hearts and lives.

Honestly, I never really thought I would get into youth ministry back in the day. I always wanted to be a high school math teacher. Trust me, after taking multiple Calculus classes at my first college that dream dissolved faster than a decimal when converted into a fraction. Sorry that was a poor math pun. But math was no longer fun. It during my time at my first college that I really began to study the Bible more (it was after all a Bible College), and I began realized that ministry in some capacity may be where I was headed.

I grudgingly agreed to volunteer at my church's youth group during my time at PBU (now Cairn University). I say grudgingly because students had to have a ministry that they volunteered at to receive course credits each year and I did not want to do this. To be quite frank, I thought I would choose the easy way out by doing something I could check out of, not give a lot of time to, and disengage from completely afterwards. It is funny how our plans are so different from God's. I never would have guessed at that time how different my life would be because of that time of service.

I started out simply volunteering in the junior high program, but eventually was doing senior high as well. It was strange. I never liked teenagers (even though I was only 19 at the time) and I thought that youth ministry was a dumb ministry idea. But something happened to me. I saw the need that was there for these students. They needed leadership, love, support, guidance, acceptance, family, and Christ. My heart began to break as I saw the lives of these students and how desperately they needed to have a void filled.

I took a year off from school and instead of stepping away from ministry; I began to volunteer full time on top of my day job. I began to experience a new found energy and love that after a hard day's work, when I would be exhausted and ready to collapse, when I didn't want to talk to anyone, I would now feel alive, revitalized, and so excited to share God's love and salvation with these students. I began to grow as a leader and teacher. I began preaching. I started to love these students and this ministry.

My heart broke when I heard their stories. I cried and laughed with them. I stayed up all night talking with them. I did crisis intervention. I saw growth. I saw Christ save people! I finally understood where God was calling me. God wanted to use me as an emissary for Him. When this became a realization for me, it was as if the fog had been lifted from my eyes. I felt a peace unlike any other. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was calling me to serve Him in youth ministry.

Over the years I honed my skills at MBI, and I volunteered and led numerous youth ministries and programs. I was in all types of environments from rural, to urban, to suburban. I worked with large and small groups of students. I was able to experience so many different faucets of youth ministry that I got a wide berth of understanding and know how. Through it all, one truth remained clear to me: I was called to teach and lead youth, so that they could experience the gift of grace that only Christ gives. I am still working in youth ministry and plan on continuing that throughout my life. This is a lifelong learning process and one that changes in its approach but not in its intent. We are called to share the truth of the Gospel unabashedly. Youth ministry will always be about God and sharing His gift with students.

With all that said, I have decided to embark upon a series that will look into two specific areas: What do youth need, and why we should "do" youth ministry. This will be a series focusing on addressing the needs of students, youth workers, youth ministry as a whole, and why the very foundation of youth ministry is pivotal to our church and its continued growth. Youth ministry isn't an option, but a necessity. It needs to be in our churches and we need to proactively engage it.

In the days to come I will be sharing my thoughts about this topic, and hopefully encouraging some to take a more active role in youth ministry, edifying my fellow volunteers, building up youth pastors, and opening my heart to share what has been placed there.

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