For well over a decade I have had the privilege of getting to teach theology and youth ministry. I get to sit with adults, some still in adolescence themselves, others who are a bit more seasoned. All of them excited about the possibilities of the future.
There are a few principles I share with every class I teach. What you see below are some of these.
1. Never let anyone tell you what you are doing is less than God ordained ministry. You are not playing games and vacationing. You are not unable to grow up and consequently chose a field that allows play for the rest of your life. You are doing sacred work. During a time when lifelong patterns and truths are becoming deeply embedded, you get to speak truth into the lives of adolescents. And by the way, speaking doesn’t always include words. It’s the attitude, the tone of voice and your very presence that makes as much of an impression as the words you choose.
2. Your education will be difficult, not impossible but difficult. You are not a generalist who barely knows anything, you become fluent in many fields. You must not only know, but be able to translate to adolescents, parents, and the community from a variety of fields including: biblical studies, theology, spiritual formation, culture, human development, administration and ecclesiology.
3. You are not alone. There will be days when it will feel like it. Find like minded friends even if they are states away. Make regular times of contacting to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Share stories. Share successes. Share failures. Share your ministry with other near and far. You were never meant to do this alone and just like you tell your students that maybe, just maybe it isn’t about someone finding you but that you need to reach out to someone else, do it. Build a network even if that network begins with 2.
4. You attitude and personal connections matter as much if not more than how smart you are. Just because you have been to class and can say big words does not mean that you should. If you are concerned that people know what you know, write it somewhere and hope for positive reviews. If you are concerned that adolescents know God and know that God loves them, be in ministry.
There is much more to say but for now, I am marinating in the words of Mark Yaconelli from YS last weekend. “Do not participate in any act of the church that leaves you less alive.” Youth ministry is sacred work. You are set apart to participate in amazing things. It won’t always be easy, but it is life giving when done well and in the right place!