It’s been about a couple of weeks since the last Rebuild Conference and I must say that it was such a blessing to me to be a part of. In all honesty, my hope is that my presentation made you a bit uncomfortable (in a good way). All too often, we get too comfortable in ministry. Maybe it’s because we know the right things to say and exactly when to say them to make our message hit the hearts of our audience. Maybe, we have a ton of kids coming to programing and everything is going great! Maybe, its the only way we can manage to keep our sanity in the hectic life of someone in ministry. But my challenge to you is to always push the limits and make yourself feel uncomfortable. Preaching the Gospel should never be comfortable, walking up to teens and asking them to pray with you should never be comfortable, and going into the lives and culture of those who need Christ the most is never comfortable.
I have found that when I get too comfortable in my job, I am often not doing it well. I remember after driving the bus for Hard as Nails Ministries last year just being overwhelmed with the discomfort of facing the reality of how many teens are struggling with so much suffering. It changed my whole life perspective, it brought me healing, and it changed the means by which I achieved my end goal. So right after my tour with the ministry, I headed to my new job in Pflugerville, Texas. I shared an office with two other women in my parish and the first thing I did while moving in was a get a huge two and a half by foot whiteboard. Here’s what I wrote:
- 5% of Teens struggle with medical issues (Hard as Nails Ministries)
- 50% of Teens come from divorced families (Fustenburg & Others- Life Course)
- 40% of Teens grow up with an absent father (Wade, Horn & Busy- Fathers, Marriage, and Welfare Reform: Hudson Institute Exceutive Briefing, 1997)
- 1% of Teens struggle with drug abuse (National Institute for Drug Abuse)
- 4% of Teens struggle with alcohol abuse (National Institute for Drug Abuse)
- 16% of Boys/25% of Girls are victims of sexual abuse (National Sex Offender Public Website)
- 93% of Boys and 62% of Girls have watched porn more than 10 times (Covenant Eyes)
- 20% of Teens struggle with depression/ mental health issues (A Report of the Surgeon General)
- 6-10% of Teens struggle with self-harm (Marjorie Wallace, The Lancet)
- 8% of Teens are bullied at school and 52% are bullied online (iSafe Foundation 2014)
- 80% of teens who commit suicide are victims of bullying (iSafe Foundation 2014)
- 9% of teens struggle with suicidal thoughts or have attempted suicide (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 2013)
I’ve been working in ministry for a while now and have just about seen it all when it comes to this stuff. We are pretty used to some of them, theres not a day goes by that I don’t read on my newsfeed about the rise of the porn industry, or the divorce rate, or see a dateline report on cyberbullying. It’s nothing new to me when I hear about teens partying. What I do often forget is that of my 200 teens that come to youth group, I have 20 who are cutting, 41% who have been taken advantage of in some way, and 40 of them who suffer with depression. I forget, even though I was once one of those statistics. The reason for keeping this on my whiteboard is to remember that as discouraging as ministry can be, Jesus wants me to bring Him right into the middle of this suffering, and too often I forget that.
Perhaps it is my own brokenness that prevents me from remembering these teens. Perhaps sometimes I still believe that I’m alone in my own struggles and suffering, but I’m convinced that that is where the enemy wants me: to feel comfortably alone. But it is there that I, as a youth minister become powerless. My own suffering is powerful beyond measure, and perhaps my Dad, through His Holy Spirit, wants to transform the hearts of those kids with my story. You and I are not called to simply preach the Gospel and hope to create an encounter with the Lord for these teens. We are called to dive deep into the midst of suffering, the lepers at heart, through the thick and tall walls that abuse, betrayal, suffering, self-medication and sin have created around the hearts of those for whom we lay down our lives daily. It is there that we find the lost sheep, and walk with them back to the Shepherd. We do that by sharing our own lives, our own brokenness, and our own struggles, so that we can share our source of hope, or joy. Teens want the Jesus who was born in the manger, who dies on the cross, who was not afraid to get messy, they want the Jesus that they can touch, who is not afraid to enter into their world. We do not have time to be comfortable in our line of work, so push yourself and keep your prayer: “Jesus, I can’t do it, You do it for me.”
The Lord did not tell us that this would be easy, He did not say that the world would accept us, He said we would have tribulation, that they would reject us, and even hate us. So why is it that so often we find ourselves in ministry basking in the comfort of acceptance and getting bent out of shape when we one person rejects us? We should strive every day to be rejected. I challenge you to ask yourself: are you getting rejected more than you are being accepted? It is in those places that we have an obligation to bring the love and hope of Christ. I look forward to joining you in the trenches.