One of the worst feelings I have ever felt was on a Sunday night in the middle of the summer. I
had prepared a fun youth event that included tye-dye and a bible study on the Creation story.
Ten minutes had gone by and no one had showed up. Not a single soul. I sat in the chair, trying
not to look pathetic in case one lone teen would saunter in the room. My heart was racing and I
felt sort of sick to my stomach. In those moments, I felt small and insignificant. I felt like I had
failed and was embarrassed by my hopeful purchase of a dozen white tees.
Thankfully, I was finally put out of my misery and 8 teenagers rolled in after 15 agonizing
minutes. The evening Mass had gone late and prevented them from coming earlier.
Whether you’re a full time Youth Minister or serve on a volunteer basis, it’s hard not to feel that
your worth as a minister of the Gospel resides solely in how many teens come to your events. And while certainly having teens there to minister to is kind of the whole point of youth ministry in the first place, there’s a tendency to allow it to judge who YOU are instead.
This is a strong temptation that I fall into quite often… I entertain thoughts like,
“If I’m not successful in this, then I’m a bad youth minister.”
“If I don’t have enough numbers and am not producing enough fruit, God must be
“I need to prove that I’m good enough for this role.”
I think that if we are honest with ourselves, these thoughts have crossed all of our minds at some point.
How many times have we told our teens that they are children of God? Hundreds, thousands,
maybe millions, depending on how long you’ve been in this line of work. We speak this truth
because declaring this identity over our teens is one they continuously need to hear. But the
other side of the coin is this, my fellow YM’s:
You are a child of God too.
Nothing that you ever do could make Him love you more or love you less. You could have
hundreds of teenagers coming in on a Sunday or Wednesday evening, hanging on to every
word you say. And the Lord in His love does not see you any differently than if you are
ministering to just one teenager, who came there for the free food. The enemy will make you
think that God is looking to see how well you perform. To prove how worthy you are for this call.
I know because he did this to Jesus Himself, (“IF you are the Son of God command these
stones into bread… Mt. 4:3)
Our good Father loves His children without counting the return on the investment. This kind of
love that we receive is what overflows into the ministry that we do, not the other way around. The
more and more I realize this, the better I am to minister from a place of security of who I am
rather than a place of desperation to be affirmed in my work. Suddenly inviting kids to events or
retreats or bible studies isn’t like pulling teeth — it’s an act of love because I want to share with them the freedom I have found. That kind of freedom is what will draw teens to Jesus, because it’s one only He can provide.
My prayer for you, friends, is this: that we all can live out the freedom we have found as children
of a ridiculously generous Father. And from this place we can share that love with the teens the
Lord brings us our way– no matter how small or overwhelmingly large the numbers are.