“You can only lead someone as far as you’ve gone.”
I hear this quote all of the time, “but I have a heart for teenagers and students,” I would tell myself. My kid’s friends think that my husband and I are really cool so that has got to mean we have this whole youth leader thing in the bag… Signed, Sealed and Delivered!
HA! Well that was short lived that’s for sure. Try diving head first into a lake off of a 30 foot cliff! Have you ever felt that impact? Well, that’s what the beginning of diving into youth ministry feels like, or any ministry for that matter. First you have to build up an insane amount of guts, walk up to the edge and with every ounce of faith… You Jump! After the jump always comes the BOOM of the impact, and OUCH does it hurt!
Everything you thought was confident inside of you is now ripped away and your bathing suit is floating in the water next to you as you tread there hopelessly.
Although there are a few very important things we just couldn’t do without at the beginning of this Youth Ministry…
- In rare cases you could be incredibly blessed enough to have a support system like no other and eventually they see your weakness. My husband and I have FAMILY and FRIENDS that came along side us, they have dragged us up to shore, dried us off and made us feel safe and human again.
- MENTORS that believe in you are just as important. These people are family inside the church. The ELDERS. They have more faith in us than we do most of the time and that is just plain baffling. Why us? I ask God that a lot… Still no answer.
- Trying to be OBEDIENT to a “calling” is a very challenging feat. Maybe you have been there? 1 Thessalonians 5:24 “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”
- PRAYER… Always ALWAYS PRAYER! God’s hand is always hovering; prayer invites Him to lay His hands on you.
- FAITH It’s hard but necessary to follow up all the praying. Give the control over to the one you pray to. Faith isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice to trust and let go.
As I sit on the shore, now finally dried off (my bathing suit back on) I feel the support of our mentors, family and friends. Out of the blue my husband and I get an invite to a Youth Leader conference in Cincinnati Ohio. What?! We are so undeserving of this! Also it’s in November… Ohio is freezing! Nah, we are good. Or do we jump again? I mean we have been doing this youth leader thing for 9 months now; maybe we need something to reduce the impact and pressure of life.
We have 3 kids ages 14, 12, and 8 two girls and one boy. Our life at the time we chose to step into ministry was at its darkest place, our marriage was struggling, I was starting a new job, my husband almost lost his job, and still we jumped!
God is CRAZY! I mean seriously though, why would he take two incredibly hurt and broken people to lead such a tender group of humans through life? Still no answer.
I have always tried to be an obedient daughter to my Father in heaven, but this was a different form of obedience I have not encountered before. My husband and I are putting our family out there to be put under a microscope, to be an example, to not actually be the best examples come to find out. Our children are automatically thrown into ministry. They didn’t choose this life. All I know is that God chose my husband and me and He chose us to be their parents. So here they are sitting with us, walking with us in this ministry life. Is it easy? No, not at all. Actually it is the hardest thing we have done as a couple of almost 21 years.
Needless to say yes, we went to Ohio for the conference, we needed to go.
Months prior, we prepared our schedule for the many seminars we wanted to go to. Holy Overwhelming!
There were 3 seminars that were very important on our list and things spoken.
- Building a Successful Marriage and Youth Ministry.
– “Your greatest Youth Ministry is your Marriage.”
– “People will know you are followers by the way you love one another.” Ugh, Tough one!
– Calendar: No Technoference, & Wait to Talk! Date each other!
– Become Liberal with Apology.
- Ministry to LGBT Youth.
– Find your Yes to the LGBT community; you can’t just have a no.
Focus on shared values.
– Remember each individual is Beloved by God.
– Be consistent in your relationships. Learn something from someone in this
- Serving as a Youth Worker and a Parent.
– Establish a non-negotiable space, don’t just occupy the space.
– “How does it feel for your parent to be a youth leader?” Ask your kids this.
– Honor and protect your family time.
These are just a small, yet mighty bit we learned at this conference. Let me just say that there isn’t a piece of me that can explain my takeaways. It’s like trying to explain the Grand Canyon to someone who will never be able to see it. Maybe not that extreme, but to my husband and I it brought back the impact of jumping off that cliff. It smacked us in the face, but this time it felt really good!
We entered the conference, looked around to see a whole lot of youth workers that are way cooler than us! Silly I know but that was the immediate thought.
Then we are corralled into a huge sanctuary type room where almost all the seating is ground level. Typically we don’t enjoy being in the crowd so we kept it safe and chose the nose bleed section. For now… As we stand there through worship the first night watching our fellow youth workers praise the same God we do, we see them raise their hands to our Father in heaven, at this point we are almost wishing we were down ground level with the rest of them. What a grand introduction to the weekend! This was only the beginning.
It wasn’t until midway through our first five hour seminar; Building a Successful Marriage and Youth Ministry that Chris and I felt like “OK we can do this!”
All it took was us sitting around a table with other married youth workers sharing about our awesome youth group! Apparently having your youth group held in your garage is totally “On Fleek” (that’s what the kids say.) Who knew?
We left that seminar feeling on cloud nine, especially Chris! It was evident and clear that he was ready to move forward. I was relieved!
Finally time came again for another “Big Room” sanctuary time, our Favorite! This is when all us youth leaders came together and got poured into… Boy did that happen!
We heard so many encouraging things in this space.
- “Live your Life Afraid” – Don’t just do the safe things in faith!
- “Good neighbors don’t drive through, they journey with.” -Missions, Schools, Outreach! (So many notes.)
- “If you want to become the greatest, become the least.” – put yourself in a place where people can relate to you.
- “Before you can do the work of ministry, you have to do the Worship.” – Albert Tate
This time we go upfront close to the stage and totally out of our comfort zone, we were in it to win it putting ourselves out there in the crowd! This conference has given us wings in a sense, and bravery too!
Worship starts, now this is the kind of worship that crawls into your heart and makes you belt out your inner opera voice. It gets real on the ground level, the music is louder, people are closer together, your heart pounds… Then something truly heart changing happened.
A little girl about 7 maybe 8 years old stood up onto her chair next to her parents and completely carefree lifted her hands in worship. Remember the Grand Canyon? Well this little girl represents the North Rim. Truly I can’t explain the feelings, the tears and emotions that were amongst the surrounding youth leaders watching this young life raise her sweet hands to our Jesus.
I can say this though, that moment for me personally as tears rush down my cheeks was God saying Liz, This is why you are doing what you are doing. You have a heart for young people and their growth through life. As I look over at my husband being the manly man that he is, his eyes are full of the wet stuff he wouldn’t dare to admit are tears.
I could be wrong, but through all of the seminars that we sat through from 9:00-10:00pm in 4 days, this moment might have been the most life giving to me.
This showed me that for the sake of our children, us adults need to model that commitment to Christian worship and fellowship that it is Not an elective.
I grew up in church, my mom was my Sunday school teacher for years and highly involved in church. Did I like all the Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays at church? Not always, but did it shape me? Oh yes, without question. The seed was planted.
We need to share the joy of the gospel, seek the kids in the corners and humble ourselves to be at the level of our youth. Give them credit for who they are and where they are at.
As a matter of fact, I want to always try and believe like I did as a 16-year-old at Winter Camp. Jesus captured my heart that day at camp. As a youth leader at this conference I learned again that I am a child of God, bought with the blood of Christ and set apart for gospel ministry to His glory. I want to continue to come back to that fact-daily and always find my identity there.
Going to Youth Specialties has taught me to go out and serve our youth with joy and with freedom. Like my husband says, “There is no blueprint for youth ministry.” You just take steps forward and God guides your path. The more cool, holy or amazing we try to be or present ourselves; the more un-relatable we make ourselves. Not only as a leader but as a follower of Christ.
As a Christian we need to show the youth that Jesus meets them right where they are, loves them as they are and desires to be a part of their lives right now. Not when they become cool, holy or amazing as their leaders.
After learning new scheduling techniques, tools for our marriage and family it all came down to us recognizing where we are and giving God more credit for what He has chosen, who He has chosen us to be.
We took A jump off the cliff, stepped down to ground level, saw the Room from a View and put ourselves into the thick of it. We give all glory to God and take this appointment to the depths of our hearts with gratitude.
Discovery Youth Prescott