“That is true success in ministry, that you are being obedient to the gospel. Success is not kids becoming more moral or that they even show up to club. Thank you for being on the front lines and for following Jesus in the midst of a crooked generation.”
First off, I want you to know three things:
1) you are loved
2) you are noticed
3) you are appreciated.
Now, let’s talk about your ministry. See, I get it. I’ve been there and I’ve done it. Ministry gets hard and Younglife is no exception. Maybe your co-leaders are irresponsible and don’t do what they say they will do. Kids bale, they say they’ll be at club and campaigners and they never show, they cuss you out and consistently tell you to leave. Maybe you can’t even get kids to hang out with you in the first place. You’ve done all you can and the kids you are chasing won’t budge. Maybe your kids are still drinking and partying and smoking weed and having sex with each other even though they always tell you they won’t do it anymore. It’s beyond frustrating and it’s exhausting. I get it.
Have I earned the right to be heard yet? If not yet, hopefully I will after you hear some of my story.
It’s a Sunday night, April of 2013. Specifically, it is the Sunday night before my last high school club at which I would be giving the club talk. Why do I remember it so well? Because that’s the night the Lord told me I wouldn’t be a Younglife leader. This rocked my world. “Why Lord? I love this ministry, I’m bought in, I love students, I’ve been a leader for a year already, why can’t I do it?” No answer.
So I can’t be a leader. That’s fine! For the next year and a half I was on a journey figuring out my role with Younglife. I wasn’t about to shut the door between me and this ministry completely. After getting back to school for my sophomore year of college, I began to figure out that there was an epidemic in my area:
I began to learn about leaders leaving Younglife and really struggling with self-worth and value and many of them questioned their salvation and many others turned their exhaustion towards addictions. I hated that, so I made it my mission to find out why this was so pervasive. As I befriended leader after leader and staff people really all around the country, I learned that it almost always boiled down to one thing…lack of support.
You get trained, you get placed, (maybe) you sign a contract, you start doing club and then contact work and maybe you even convince kids to come to campaigners, and often times…the emotional support ceases to exist real quick.
By the grace of God, my natural inclination didn’t come. Rather, my heart broke and I had compassion and true compassion takes action. So, I had a new mission: supporter. In Exodus 17, the Israelites are (of course) in battle. Here’s how the story goes:
As long as Moses’ hands are raised, the Israelites are winning.
With every inch his arms lowered, the Amalekites began to gain the upper hand.
Aaron and Hur gave Moses a stone to sit on and then became his strength by literally holding up his arms as they got more and more exhausted.
That’s it! That’s what I want to be! I want to be Hur or Aaron for Younglife leaders! This is the charge the Lord has given me. And it took being removed from leadership in this ministry that I love to realize how important this role is. That is why the title of the blog is “We” rather than “You”. Sure, you were made for this and I was too, but we are a team. You hold your hands up, and I’ll be your support to make sure your hands stay up and we keep winning the battle.
I’m not alone in this charge, though. It is not just me that is for you and about you. See, I contacted a slew of people (old YL kids, old leaders, old staff people/area directors, past and current committee members, etc.) and asked them this question:
If there is one thing you could tell a Younglife leader or staff person today, what would it be?
A lot of the responses legitimately had me crying. It was so incredibly encouraging to see that my friends are so loved and so supported by so many people other than myself! Some of the responses are advice, but most of them are honestly strictly encouragement. Here we go:
“Don’t grow weary in doing good, for at the right time you will reap a harvest if you don’t give up.”
“When I was a freshman in high school, I met my Young Life leader for the first time at my lunch table as I was creeped out as he asked me if I wanted to come over to his apartment this weekend. But little did I know that guy would be consistent in my life through my parents divorce, through depression, through terrible choices, through me blowing him off, and through everything sucky that happened in high school. Not only was he there during the bad, but we rejoiced through the good. Like when the time he taught me that my worth was found in being a son of the King, my Daddy, instead of my earthly father who left me. I didn’t realize how much my Young Life leader meant to me until I was a freshman in college. Not one time did I realize that he is the one person that I credit for making me into the man I am today. So what I have to say to Young Life leaders now is that my Young Life leader is the reason I follow Jesus now. It wasn’t glamorous. It wasn’t a big moment. But it was consistency. It was love. And it was the best picture of Jesus I have ever seen by my Young Life leader not giving up on me, by showering me with Grace and Love, and showing me where his unwavering Joy came from.”
“We’d say first and foremost, stay connected to the vine, Jesus. Out of the overflow of your love for Jesus will flow good ministry.”
“Your choice to simply step out is brave, any bravery you need beyond that first step I promise your friend Jesus will provide. He has gone before you in every interaction, every football stadium, every lunchroom, every leader meeting, every unexpected conversation. Lean in to Him – he has brought you here and will walk with you. You have a divine privilege to enter club rooms, homes, classes and share Jesus. The only way that will happen is if you abide in His great love for you. There will be moments where you say the wrong thing or make a mistake, but those moments are not lost to our Creator. He is an Artist and loves to weave our weaknesses together with His sufficient grace. So step out in to the scary, know Who has gone before you, and trust in his abiding love to weave together a story of grace as you reach out to lives untouched by His healing hands.”
“The enemy’s #1 goal is to steal, kill, and destroy and with you as a leader being on the front lines in ministry, you are going to be a target. So fight lies of discouragement (whatever you may hear as you lead) with truth, and the truth is that you are being obedient to your call to talk about Jesus and all that He has done. That is true success in ministry, that you are being obedient to the gospel. Success is not kids becoming more moral or that they even show up to club. Thank you for being on the front lines and for following Jesus in the midst of a crooked generation.”
“God doesn’t desperately need you for his venture to save lives, but He desperately desires for you to participate. It’s for your greatest good that He’s called you to your work. Just like any good adventure, there’s failure and just like every good story God ever told, he works those failures for the good of his people and the glory of his name. Do your best and don’t stress the rest.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving up countless hours, putting yourself in awkward situations and giving up all kinds of energy and resources, so the gospel may go forward and the kingdom may advance in some of the most broken places in this world. Middle schools, high schools, households, families and generations will never look the same, because you said YES and had the courage to show up. There is so no better way to spend your days than sharing the gospel and your life, both in word and action, with those who do not yet know the fullness of Life. What you do matters! Keep showing up!”
“The first thing that comes to mind is pretty simple and every leader/staff person has heard it before but here goes: You are loved, rest in that above all, and love people from that place.”
“Each gesture of love that is extended to a kid, every act of inclusion and encouragement, every glimpse into a life lived with Jesus leaves eternal imprints of the kingdom! Imprints that break the bonds of discouragement and set people free! Imprints that forever change the direction of one’s life because someone said ‘here I am Lord, send me!’ Put your armor on and keep fighting the good fight!!”
“Your investment in kids matters. A lot! Let your love for others tell the story of Jesus. ❤️”
Friends, what you do matters. Whether you’re in San Fransisco doing Capernaum, or outside Denver at a school with heavy history, or in Austin at some of the biggest clubs in America, or in Hearne with some really unique situations, or at private schools in Dallas, or in East Nashville with hard situations, or on camp staff working your butt off year-round, or starting clubs in Costa Rica or Africa, or anywhere far and in between those places, what you do matters.
It’s immensely important.
I love you.
Thank you for being on the front lines and for following Jesus in the midst of a crooked generation.