I have been in youth ministry for over a decade. I LOVE youth ministry. I will never be great at it. But I think God works through me so great things happen sometimes despite of my limitations. How blessed am I to be in such a great profession? There are a lot of pinch me moments of beauty in serving the Church in this way.
But. There are times when I doubt everything about what is otherwise my passion. And the devil is always ready to helpfully push me in a direction that makes me feel that everything I know to be true is a lie. And let’s face it, I give the devil a lot of material to work with.
For example I do not look like a youth minister. I really don’t know what one looks like, but long flowing hair, youthful skin and the voice of angel I am sure are prerequisites. I am the queen of awkward. I have nerd glasses and not even the cool kind. I have never had a youth ministry t-shirt fit me properly. And my shoes squeak.
I do not sound like a youth minister. I apologize in advance before I sing and ask the youth to sing over top of me to drown me out. I wish my best talks were about the girl who teased me, or the boy who broke my heart. But they are sometimes about the cows that got through the fence and ate a year’s worth of crops and how that felt.
I do not act like a youth minister. I have a purse full of rosaries. But I can never find a rosary. I talk too much or too little. I have never found the perfect balance. My use of a microphone is cringe-worthy. I have twisted an ankle walking on flat ground. Forget about games. I am convinced every basketball will hit me.
So when I stand up to do a talk or lead an event, the devil must be smiling from ear to ear. Quite often he twists and worms self-doubt around in my head one hour before an event, planting seeds that he would be delighted to see take root. No matter how much planning and preparations I put into an event or a talk, at times this has been the Secret-Talk-Before-My-Talk (with a count down) in my head:
1 Hour Previous to Event: I got this.
45 Minutes: What if no one comes?
30 Minutes: I am superwoman. I have a huge family. I am the queen of being flexible. Big or small, I can handle it.
15 Minutes: No one is coming. I am not superwoman. My family is dysfunctional. I am not flexible. I should cancel. I can handle nothing.
10 Minutes: I like small numbers. Relational ministry opportunity! God will do great work here.
7 Minutes: I have no idea what I am doing. Low numbers are bad. How can I justify the amount I spent on tonight if no one comes?
5 Minutes: Volunteer brings amazing last-minute idea. Praise God for my team!
4 Minutes: Maybe volunteer senses tonight will be a disaster. Maybe I should scrap everything I know. (I now feel physically ill.)
3 Minutes: What if youth ministry is just reasonably priced babysitting with live music? Is that what people think?
2 Minutes: Great. The Pastor has arrived. I have lost control before we even started. Tuning instruments, balls bouncing and youth screaming over top of each other all at once.
Start Time: A room full of people are looking at me with kind eyes and smiles. Maybe I got this?
It’s a roller coaster of emotions! The more I network with other youth ministers the more I am finding I am not alone. Sadly it can be very easy to get to a place were you feel like you don’t measure up and that the Church does not need you. The youth do not need you. And you don’t need youth ministry either.
But never doubt that God is with you. He hears and sees the turmoil of anxiety – the Secret-Talk-Before-Your-Talk. No matter where you are when it is start time, God is there with you. And He, too, has a message for you. But we are not going to hear it unless we challenge what we might already be hearing.
God is going to help you do His work. He made you. He has invested in you. He trusts you with the souls of the youth. Your role is so important to Him that His message to you before a talk could sound something like this:
I love you so much.
I am sending a lot of youth your way tonight. Some will be full of energy. Some with too much. It’s going to get loud. But if you recall, I gave you four little brothers and a sister so you know what loud is. You can handle this. Some of the youth are going to be too tired, feel hungry, been rushed here by rushed parents and maybe don’t want to be here. I know your skills to comfort. I would not want them there unless I believed in you.
When you speak tonight, you will be great. Tonight not everyone will love your talk because My plan is not for everyone. There is a single youth that does not listen to what other youth focus on. Tonight that youth will focus on you. Your talk is My talk for him. Be exactly as I created you to be and you will reach him and he will know My love. I need you tonight. You are My voice. You have My words. You have My heart. You show My boundless love to the max. I made you unique because I needed you to be unique tonight.
I know the greatness that dwells inside you. You are mine. You got this.
That’s the Secret-Talk-Before-The-Talk that you and I need to hear! And if God did mic drops that would so be a mic drop moment!
Nothing can compare to that kind of support. And it is there! You can hear the difference. You can feel the difference! It is not full of self-doubt and anxiety. It is full of calm gentle love and unyielding guidance and confidence in you. It is God leading with the greatest of understanding and knowledge so that you can lead the youth with your talk or event.
God knows how hard you work. He knows your plans. He and only He knows the magnitude of each outcome. The challenge for each of us is to listen.
Find His voice and hear it. Let it be the Secret-Talk-Before-Your-Talk.