I have been in youth ministry probably for about 10 years now, and never have I been more unconfident. Our church was able to acquire a storefront that is about 100 yards away from our town's junior high school. It's located in an area where teens walk to and from school, so basically I hit the youth ministry grand prize. I run an after school program and I'm working on adding tutoring.
If you’ve been in youth ministry very long, you would know that this is the ideal situation for many of our ministries. Here is the problem. I spent many years building my core group of teens, and let me tell you they are awesome teens, and I guess somewhere along the way I forgot what youth ministry really is, and what it is really like.
I let kids come for 2 1/2 hours after school twice a week, and here's what I found was happening. I had to hide our bean bag chairs, I had to remind them basketballs are not dodgeballs, and I had to remind them where the trash can sets. Then at the end of the day I was still picking up their trash. Walls were being scuffed, stuff was getting broken, and I was getting frustrated and tired. I am hosting 30-35 14-year-olds, most of whom are boys, so I guess I should kind of expect that stuff to happen.
The point is that I had to re-learn how to be a pastor. I had to love THESE kids and learn how to have patience, compassion, and mercy with them. My world was opened up to include teens whose parents may or may not really care about what they're doing, and may not even care much for them. I found myself taking three or four kids home every week, and I found them calling me during the week for rides and silly things. You know all those things we tell our core kids to do, because we know they won't take us up on it?
I mean, I'm doing normal youth pastor stuff, helping with “Big Church,” and now I am driving kids everywhere and being a maid?
Yet isn't this what youth ministry really is about? YES...but I was comfortable and forgot the point. God has blessed me and given me a unique opportunity, and my job is to hang with teens, teach teens, and love teens. I guess sometimes it takes messy, uncomfortable situations to help us remember what youth ministry is all about.
God has called me to love my whole town, not just my youth group. I thought I cared about the teens in town, but I didn't know what that meant until I took my youth group to them. My ministry is currently messy, weird, uncomfortable, hard, fast, and a lot of it is new. Believe it or not, I am excited and rejuvenated in my call to ministry. As long as I take this journey with God, then I am not alone, and he will be responsible for what happens along the way. My job? Patch the holes, fix the broken things, and cover up Fight Club before the senior pastor finds out. Just kidding! My job is simply to love teens and try to point them to God—nothing more nothing less.