A while ago I wrote a post about what I wished I knew when entering youth ministry. This is part six of a series dedicated to elaborating each of those eleven points. You can read part one, part two, part three, part four, and part five here.
When in the guts of week-to-week youth ministry it is unlikely that anyone cares about what you’ve achieved in the past. The only time your education, prior experience, and variety of training helps you is through the application and interview process. Once your name has gone to the church, an introductory A4 sheet of paper is handed out about who you are (and your family, if you have one), and the vote has been taken, it’s all over. All of that is forgotten.
What matters most to those in your church is how you relate to people and whether you can look after the students.
Seriously, get those two things right and generally people will be happy.
However, for us as Youth Pastors, we have a sense of pride in our work. This is not the kind of arrogant pride, overconfidence, and belittling of others. No, this is a sense of achievement, being happy and satisfied in the work, education, and relationships we have in our life.
If you’ve been in youth ministry longer than 5 years you should feel good about that. If you’ve completed a particular course, you should feel good about that. If you’ve travelled, you should feel good about that. If you’ve been through tough experiences and come out the other side, you should feel good about that. If you’ve taken the step to get married, I hope you’d feel good about that! Whatever your accomplishments and achievements are you should feel good about them. We are all unique and will bring those experiences into our youth ministry role at church.
The issue is, no one will care more about this than you.
I wished I knew that what I’d achieved in the past would only matter to me earlier than I did. At one stage I believed that the two-years in mission work would help me gain a position as Youth Pastor. I thought it would at least provide a good platform for leadership in the church. After all, I knew what I’d done, the experiences I’d had, and was confident in my own abilities. Yet, when in conversation with someone in leadership they simply dismissed this experience because it wasn’t youth ministry specific. Little did they know me, let alone the experiences I had, and how totally applicable and formative it was to youth ministry.
Often we begin to believe that the experiences we’ve had in the past aren’t very influential or relevant to the role we play as Youth Pastors. This isn’t true.
Everything we’ve done is really formative for us. Our experience in life and work all helps in the youth ministry role, helping us relate, care, and create as Youth Pastors. Whether it’s a course of study, travel, corporate work, gardening, or cleaning toilets as part of your entry-level McDonalds job, all of these help in forming us in youth ministry.
All this being said, it comes down to the realisation that we can’t rest on these experiences. We can’t have our hope and identity in our past accomplishments, just as we can’t have our hope and identity in our role as Youth Pastor.
While these things help form us, they aren’t known to others. Youth ministry volunteers, parents, the students don’t know your story like you do. When something comes up that they’re not happy with, that they challenge you on, that they disagree with you about, then none of your accomplishments matter. It’s not about status and achievements. What matters is how you’re going to deal with the situation you have in front of you. What matters is whether you’ve learnt from your experiences, and how you can leverage them in dealing with the challenges and joys you face in youth ministry now.
The point is really about identity.
Our identity is not in our position as Youth Pastor. It’s not in our accomplishments. It’s not about our ego.
It’s in Christ (John 15:15; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 2:20; Col 3:3).
We serve him. His people. And try to get the ego out of the way.
Questions for reflection:
- Do you put too much weight in the achievements of the past?
- Is your ego seeking to remind you of all the awesome things you’ve done?
- How are you learning and growing to serve others in humility?