Dear Youth Ministry Veterans
I’m not sure at what point you’re considered a veteran youth worker. Perhaps it is the point where you can help others avoid the mistakes you have made. Wherever you draw that line, I have a few pieces of encouragement for my fellow youth ministry vets:
- Don’t be afraid of change.
I love to tell the story of the little girl who is watching her mom fry a chicken. Her mom buys a whole chicken, cuts off the legs and the wings and throws them away. She proceeds to fry only the chicken breast. “Mom,” the little girl asks, “why do you throw out part of the chicken? Why do you fry it like that?” Her mom responds, “Honey, I don’t know. That’s how your grandmother taught me to do it. Ask her.” So the little girl goes to her grandmother with the same question. The grandma responds, “I don’t know. That’s how your great-grandma taught me to do it. Ask her.” So the little girl asks her great-grandmother the same question. The great-grandmother responds, “That’s easy, when I first started frying chicken I didn’t have a skillet big enough to fry it in. So I threw the legs and wings out.”
In our own ministries, we have to constantly evaluate why we do what we do. Does it still work? Does my current group of students respond to this? Can my current team buy in? We must be willing to shift and change our approach based on the team, parents, and students we have now.
- Keep growing and learning.
Last week I had a conversation with a mentor who is farther along in ministry than I am. He asked me, “Leneita, when was the last time you went to a conference just to go—not to speak or teach, but just to meet people and learn?” The question caught me off-guard, especially after speaking with a 40-year vet who told me that conferences couldn’t teach him anything anymore.
There comes a point in ministry when it feels like we’ve seen and learned it all. Yet we must recognize that old dogs sometimes need to learn new tricks. Mentors keep us accountable. Growth keeps us humble.
- Know when to leave.
There may come a point when the Lord is tugging at your heart to do something else for and with him. I once was told, “It’s easy to hear the call into a ministry, but too many times we ignore the Lord’s voice when he is calling us out.”
Be led out before you burn out. If you feel like your frustrations consistently outweigh your joys in ministry, it may be time to ask Christ if he has something else in mind for you. Does he need to readjust your heart? Do you need to be doing the same type of ministry, but somewhere else? Does he have something entirely different for you to do?
- Keep the main thing, the main thing.
Yes, this seems like a no-brainer, but I still think it is important to mention. Don’t get so caught up polishing your ministry that you forget the reason it exists. Why are you serving? If your answer isn’t “Because I’m in love with Jesus,” it may be time to reevaluate.
- Redefine success.
Too often we get to a certain point in ministry and expect it to look a certain way. We have been doing this for X number of years, so we should have something to show for it! We try to reproduce models of ministry that we deem successful. But the Lord gave you a vision for the next generation. Take elements from other models, but don’t mirror them. Success comes when you are obedient to what God asks of you.
Finally, I just want to say “thank you” to those faithful veterans who persevere in ministry. The longer I stick it out as a youth worker, the fewer traveling companions I see on the road next to and ahead of me. It’s nice to know that there are still steadfast servants to lean on and learn from.
About the Author
Leneita Fix co-founded Frontline Urban Resources with Jeffrey Wallace to equip, coach, and speak into the lives of those working with families living in a “survival mode” mentality. They refer to this thinking as the “new urban.” Combined, they carry almost four decades of experience in the family ministry setting, most of it in traditional urban ministry. However each… Read More