Hope for a Drowning Youth Worker

By Taryn Phiri October 19, 2016

Following an insufficient four hours of sleep, you get the kids out of bed and off to school just in time to make your midweek church leadership meeting.  Now the clock reads 10:30, and you head to the lobby for your third cup of coffee this morning. You avoid making eye contact with the church secretary, hoping she’ll forget to ask you for your overdue expense report, and you shut the door to your office, place your head in your hands and wonder, “What am I supposed to teach on tonight?”

Before you have a chance to think your phone buzzes with a text message from one of your small group leaders letting you know they’ll be absent from youth group tonight due to a sick kid, and then your phone lights up with a call from a parent of a struggling teen in your ministry. You decline the call, making a mental note to call back later, and you open up your email to find 73 unread emails in your inbox. The camp is requesting final numbers for your fall retreat. Your pastor is wondering if you’ll be able to preach next month, and a key volunteer is asking how much pizza to buy for tonight’s youth group.

You’re drowning, and there doesn’t seem to be an escape in sight.

Perhaps this scenario hits close to home for you. At times youth ministry has the power to make us feel like we’re hopelessly drowning, and while I cannot make your problems or the feeling of hopelessness disappear, let me offer a word of hope and encouragement.

God knows.
It’s likely that there are many people in your life who have no idea what you’re going through. They can’t fully understand the pressures of your job or the unique dynamics and challenges of your ministry, and it may be that there are some people you’re just plain uncomfortable sharing these struggles with. Be encouraged that God knows. He sees your struggle. He hears your prayers, and He is with you always.

Remember Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:8.
“I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

Your work matters.
While so many emails, late nights, conversations, and meetings will go unnoticed, they are still of great importance. Your email thread with the camp paved the way for Jenny to come to accept Christ at this year’s fall retreat. Your late night spent prepping discussion questions for Wednesday night small group led to some of the best conversations your small group leaders have had with students to date. Despite the pain of right now, God is using you in the Kingdom.

Hear Paul’s encouragement in 1 Corinthians 15:58.
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

God will make a way out.
Your present circumstances will not always be your present circumstances. No doubt that God is already at work bringing about changes that you may be entirely unaware of at this point. He may lighten your load with the help of a new volunteer. He may give you new wisdom and insight that will help you manage your time and your sanity. He may even reenergize you though an encouraging conversation with a student who is learning from you how to walk with the Lord.

Take comfort from Psalm 40:1-2.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

My friend, God knows what you’re going through. Please do not give up; instead, trust that God has the power and the will to keep you from drowning. Know that I’m praying for you.

About the Author

Taryn Phiri

Taryn Phiri grew up in various states across the East Coast and the Midwest, but now she and her husband, Jerry, are happy to call Glendale Heights, IL their home. After studying International Development at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, Taryn served at LeaderTreks for many years as a trip leader and training coordinator….  Read More