I am now 3 weeks into my job as the Associate Director of Youth Ministry for a large, downtown, DFW-area church. Although I was objectively qualified for this job, and have learned a lot more already, I will admit that I have spent a fair amount of my time feeling sort of lost.
I tried to ease in, checking my natural proclivity to burst into situations as a tidal wave of unsubstantiated self-confidence and enthusiasm that usually leaves me having to apologize and course-correct within a couple weeks. On that front I think I’ve done decently well, listening and trying to fit into the already-established dynamics and culture. But other than, ‘try not to be annoying,’ I haven’t really had much of a strategy in any of this. Around February, I felt a call to youth ministry. I’ll admit I responded with something more like ‘Ok, Jesus’ than the Magnificat. I did all the right things. I got a youth ministry job, I’m going to seminary, I’m reading the right books.
But when I sit with my cohort of youth ministry newbies in my training program, or read these books, and they talk about not burning yourself out in the first couple years so that you can have a 20 year career with your ministry, I find myself scooting back a little in my chair. I’m not sure I’m a “youth ministry person” – I’m just a person who happens to be doing youth ministry right now. Just like when I worked at IJM, I wasn’t a “anti-trafficking person,” that was just what I was doing right then. Yeah I mean, when I heard this call, it sounded like it was for life in ministry, but I’m not sold. This isn’t all I’ve wanted to do since I was kid, like some of the people in my program, or my boss.
But these teenagers have made my easing, my halfhearted commitment, challenging. Within my first week, wonderful teenage girls poured out their heartbreaks and brokenness into my hands, not because I had said the right thing or established the right environment, but simply because God decided this was what he wanted to use me for. So I met them with open hands and absolutely no motive or agenda. Not because I’m selfless or my motives are pure, but because I simply hadn’t been there long enough to even decide what my agenda was.
‘Ok, Jesus.’ I thought to myself on my exhausted drive home from spending time with these girls.’You clearly did call me here. So here I will be.’ I thought of Old Testament prophets and kings, who heard the voice of God and said, ‘I will go, but only if you go with me.’
I feel lost because I have no idea what version, or fragment of me is right for this. I have changed and grown so much in the past two years that I’m not longer sure what I even bring to the table. The nineteen and twenty year old me that first confidently barreled into youth ministry is long gone. I can’t rely on the skills learned or strategies developed then any more than I could rely on ones learned out of a book. They’re equally irrelevant.
At our program orientation, our director wrapped up a session by assuring us “if you fear you are inadequate, don’t worry. You definitely are.” But Jesus is so much greater than our inadequacy. Grace comes into own in our weakness. The message of our lives is told through our weakness.
So I’m 3 weeks in, and plagued with inadequacy, lukewarm commitment, and lack of direction. But Jesus has already used those broken places, using inadequacy to keep me humble, my lukewarmness to keep me constantly evaluating myself and everything around objectively, and even my lack of direction has quieted my ruthless ambition and made me a more honest and present sister in Christ to those around me. My story is not one of the superstar youth leader, but of a broken sinner, a follower of Jesus, who for the time being is blessed to join what God is doing here.
I will watch with wide eyes and a hungry heart to see what Jesus does next.