Man, I loved that car!
But to be honest, after a few years I slowly started to hate that thing. It would break down quite frequently, it was slow, and I kind of wanted to upgrade to a GTI. I started to forget why I even bought that car at all.
I remember when I first went into youth ministry. I was 18, almost 19, years old and I was on cloud nine. Right out of the gate I really enjoyed it! It seemed like a dream job. I jumped into the game after a season of hardcore seeking - "God what are you calling me to give my life to?" And fortunately I found out early, so all through college I was involved in ministering to young people.
When I started out, it brought me so much life and joy - in fact, the first 8 to 12 years was non-stop joy! But then something happened. I'm not even sure what it was... maybe it was a combination of things.
Here, let me make a list:
*An extremely low paycheck (with no hope for higher pay anytime soon) and really crappy benefits
*Church staff meetings began to snuff the life out of me
*A tough supervisor who I didn't feel safe with (plus all he cared about were numbers)
*Not having a voice in shaping language and culture church wide
*Students not connecting with the larger church body and getting push back when I would try to implement integration
*The heartbreaking work of kids struggling, hurting themselves, falling into addiction, and walking away from faith
*Not feeling known, understood, or respected by staff and church members (I'd hear the old, "So when are you going to become a real pastor" thing or, "So when you're not in the office, what are you doing?" Ugh!)
*Never feeling safe to take time off to recharge
*The constant struggle to get the hires and budget that would allow for the growth we were experiencing
Each of these or a combination to differing degrees of this stuff began to take its toll.
I started to forget why I even got into youth ministry at all.
But honestly, I never got tired of sleeping on the floor at camp or on a mission trip (thank God for inflatable mattresses). I never got tired of going to students' games/recitals or listening to them at a coffee shop or dealing with and supporting struggling parents. I never got tired of daily pursuing students in the midst of the noise and busyness of their lives. I never got tired of their questions and doubts. All of that was fine, even great. But the list of the above other stuff was leaving me with little joy.
I had serious thoughts about becoming a car salesman.
A number of years ago on a Wednesday afternoon I began setting up for youth group, like every week, and out of nowhere I started having a panic attack. Now I knew it was a panic attack because I'm a youth worker... I work with students who have them. But me? Crazy! But this would happen from time to time for about 2 months. Finally I went and got some counseling. And, by the way, it helped me significantly! But I couldn't believe that ministry, which had started out so wonderful and life giving, had turned out to bring me overwhelming stress and hardship.
I began thinking about the environment students were/are living in and why they are having stress and many having regular panic attacks. I wanted to know if I was living and thinking similar to the students I was trying to help.
Feel hopeless - So how is my hope?
They are full of fear- What am I afraid of?
They feel undue and ridiculous pressure - What kind of pressure am I feeling?
They are believing lies about themselves - What lies have I begun to believe?
They have forgotten who they REALLY are - In the midst of all of this, have I forgotten who I am?
They are living daily in an environment (school, friends, family, teachers) where they don't feel safe - Am I living in a similar environment?
The enemy is trying to steal life from them - Have I forgotten that there even is an enemy?
They aren't feeding their souls - Do I have a daily/weekly/monthly rhythm that feeds my soul?
I needed to evaluate everything about my life.
I needed to remember some things that I had once known, but had fallen by the way.
When I sat in that VW Bug I was reminded how I had once lived so freely and lightly. I began to remember the truth about the story I was living.
I spoke at a camp a couple of weeks ago and a student asked me during a Q&A time how I first got into youth ministry. I started telling them story after story and we were laughing and then there were even moments of warm beautiful emotion -> just remembering how it all began.
Sometimes we have to remember because sometimes we forget.
When I started getting my life back together after that season of extreme stress, I needed to get back to the heart of what life really is about. I also needed to make some hard decisions. I may even have had to quit my job so that I could live out my true calling to students.
Youth Ministry isn't easy. In fact, it's really hard. But man I love it and sometimes I have to be reminded of that. I know why you are pouring out all of your time and energy and passion for students. I get it. You're called. And this calling, it's divine.
Don't let the noise of life or anything else take it from you. Live life well and remember. Remember that God's hand is upon you. That you are favored and anointed and he's given you a voice that this generation needs to hear. Sit in his amazing peace today. Sit in his presence. Life is good. It's full of so many good things. Remember.