I was pretty sure, that day, that I wanted to quit more than I ever had wanted to before.
The youth had done just about everything in their power to irritate me, ignore the topic for the week, and be distracted through our prayer time. Our goal that day had been to make cookies for the upcoming cookie walk. I thought it would be really cute for them to create gingerbread men of the Saints we had been talking about. The teens had learned about a lot of the Saints over the semester and over the two years I had been with them. I figured they had a lot to work from.
It became evident to me that they had little concern over these heroes that had made little to no impact on the teens’ spiritual lives.
Instead of decorating Saints with their memorable symbols, I got Patrick Starfish, the Hulk, and cookies frosted with blends of colors that made up no character person or anything remotely important. I could tell the two young women who were there were trying, but amidst the distractions of the others, they didn’t have much to work with. This left me sad, but I did my best to move forward throughout the night.
We went back to the room, leaving the mess behind us in the kitchen because I had no patience left to instruct them on how to clean up their mess. We entered into prayer. When I say we “entered” in to prayer, I mean, we began to pray and were interrupted every few seconds by someone’s comment, giggle, or mocking face.
I was on the verge of tears.
We went back to retrieve our cookie blobs that didn’t look like Saints. After using about $30 of our budgeted money, a donation we were okay to make, I sent them home and kept three of the cookies that looked somewhat decent. I spoke to the teens about how I felt this was a missed opportunity for service. Service THEY were asking for! Maybe I could have done a better job at the beginning of the night making sure they knew this was a service project. Maybe then they would have put in a bit more effort.
When the youth went out to their cars, I looked at my fiance, who also happened to be my adult leader, and told him I was pretty sure this was our last year. I wasn’t sure what had even kept me here this long. Youth ministry was my favorite thing in high school, but it’s not something I had been planning to do. It’s not really even something I wanted to do, being more introverted and less creative than I imagine a youth minister should be. It wasn’t until my second year serving with NET Ministries that I felt as though the Lord had called me to youth ministry. And every time I thought about quitting in the past, He stepped in to remind me why that was not an option.
Before we could finish cleaning the kitchen, one of youth came back in, her eyes bubbling over with tears. She asked me if we could talk for a minute. She said slowly but deliberately that she needed advice in prayer because it just had not been what she had remembered it to be or how she wanted it to be at all. I listen to her explained how busy she was, and the transformation of what her prayer had been, to what it was becoming. She knew the story of Mother Teresa well because I had talked often of her. The desolation that Mother Teresa had felt for 50 years was only a reflection of the love and trust she had for God. I told this young girl to stay strong and to know that God is not far off, and that no matter whether or not she felt Him, He walked with her and that her strength was recognized. She was grateful for our time to chat and took advice on prayer habits to try. We talked about trying to stick to a particular habit and get through it with God instead of trying to catch up to Him. I told her I was proud of her and that I would be praying for her too.
As she left, my fiance looked at me and smiled. I buried my face in my hands, finish crying, looked up and exclaimed “FINE!” We finished cleaning up the kitchen, and we left for the night. This conversation captivated my heart and I knew with full confidence that is exactly where God wanted me to be. She came in the next week more driven and shared with a group that her prayer had been better even during that short time.
I didn’t join youth ministry to be exciting or because I love large group games. I joined because I’m wanted to meet God in the face of the youth that He brought into my life. Most of the time they are a joy to be around and in those moments where they’re anything but, I’m reminded that we are not always joyful in the call that we receive. Trust God with full confidence that He is good and that He has a purpose for calling you to ministry.