“Why are you still leading youth group every week?”
I knew the question was coming from my lead pastor (again), and I dreaded it. When I came on as children’s pastor, it was understood that in time, overseeing our youth ministry would become my responsibility as well. The timeline was moved up when our youth leader stepped down. I added the youth hat to my rack, grateful for the assistance of three solid volunteers who really love our kids, and I took on the great adventure that is youth ministry. The goal was that I would kick off the year, quickly moving other leaders into position so that my task was one of empowering leaders rather than being “hands on” every week.
As the school year progressed, I could feel that something was out of balance. I wanted and needed to step out of the role of being at the center of the wheel every week, doing all of the lesson planning and most of the implementation. But when I looked at our volunteer team, I didn’t see an obvious choice for someone to lead what we were doing. Each member of our team had a segment of our youth with whom they had great connection, but none was the right choice for leading the whole group. Once again, I told my lead pastor that I just didn’t have the right person to take over the lead role. I HAD to keep going this way. His response was this: “I believe the Lord has already given you everything you need to do what you are called to do right now.”
My heart’s response was, well, not godly. Don’t you think that if the answer was sitting right in front of me, I would have done something about it by now? I spent a few days in frustrated prayer. Lord, you know my heart. You know I want our kids to have everything you have for them, and I know you don’t want me stretched so thin. I don’t see the answer. Where are you? When I finally stopped and listened for the Lord, I heard the words of my pastor again. “The Lord has already given you everything you need to do what you are called to do right now.” And suddenly I saw what I had missed while focused on trying to get things done my way. If I don’t have the tools I need to do the job I’m trying to do, maybe I’m trying to do the wrong job. Our Good Father saw that what our youth really needed was not more large group meeting with fun games and solid teaching, but more loving, supportive small group community. They needed a place to talk through the changes happening in our church and in their lives. God had provided exactly what they needed in our three solid volunteers, but I was too focused on our standard way of doing things to see that we were being called to something new.
We launched our new format of alternating weeks between small group and large group activities. Our small group leaders loved having time devoted to the ways they best connect our kids with Jesus. Almost immediately, a new volunteer joined the team, one with much promise to step into leading our large group eventually. And by being “hands on” half as often, I have twice the enthusiasm each time we are together, allowing me to raise up this new leader in healthy ways. So how do you open yourself to what God has already given you when feeling trapped by what you lack?
First, count your blessings. What is working? What are the strengths of the volunteers you have? What do the youth who do attend have in common? See what the Lord has given you and thank Him. Rather than focusing on what you wish you could change, see what you have. Secondly, consider how those blessings present opportunity. For each volunteer or youth demographic you have, complete this sentence: “This would be the perfect person/group to have on the team if we were trying to _______________.” Hear the call of the Lord in what He has already given you.
Finally, value the input of the authorities placed over you. Our pride can sometimes rise up when someone distant from our daily grind tries to speak into what we are doing. But Proverbs 27:6 tells us that wounds from our friends can be trusted. Often our Lord will speak through those placed in leadership over us. How long has it been since you asked your leadership to give you input on what they are seeing in your ministry? How important it is for us to model submitted service to our youth! What our Father has planned for us is so much greater than anything we can imagine. May we all hold our plans with open hands, inviting God to bring us His best at all times.
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