Youth group…the very words strike fear into my heart. As a teenager, I never loved youth group and actually opted myself out of normally scheduled youth events to help with children and music ministries instead. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my leaders or even the other kids. I just never understood other teens. After college, my husband and I helped out with our church’s college and career group that occasionally inter-mingled with the youth group. I was continually thankful that we got the older group! In our tiny church in northern Illinois, we thankfully had a couple of families who enjoyed that ministry, so Jonathan and I never touched it.
Fast forward a few years to our current ministry. My husband is Pastor of Education, which has purview over the youth ministries. We are not the leaders, we simply work to strengthen the lay leaders who are already doing a wonderful job. However, when Jonathan came into this position, he found that the youth leaders were tired and needed more of our time at the beginning of his ministry. When he told me this, I was all for it. After all, I’m a 36-year-old woman with a brand new teenage daughter. I could handle this!
The first official time with our teens came on a Wednesday night. Games, snacks, Bible study, fellowship…the perfect teen night.
Nope! Nope! Nope! I came home from that night scared. How was I supposed to do this? It was terrifying – oh, the kids were great, the leaders were great, and the activities were great. But I didn’t understand anything! The culture of loud, silly, maturing teens drew up feelings from my own teen years that I hadn’t felt for years. Added to these growing fears was the fact that Jonathan was leading a group of teens to the Dominican Republic for a mission trip, and he wanted me to come along. Somewhat begrudgingly I agreed and the planning began. All the while I clung to the well-known verse, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). I thought, “He’ll give me the strength and I’ll come back strengthened for youth ministry!”
The trip came and went. Much was done, much was learned, and we saw these teens grow tremendously. In my own heart God showed Himself over and over strengthening me in my weaknesses with these kids.
I would love to say that He developed an amazing passion and continued to strengthen me for teens and youth ministry. However, the truth is that He didn’t. It’s still not easy and I still have lots of fear. But the point is not about my strength or the lack thereof. The point is this, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor 12:9).
I may never love being in youth ministry or have any clue as to what in the world is going on in their teen brains (does anyone?). This I do know: the true purpose of our weakness is to show Christ’s strength, and if I can see (as Paul did) God’s power in weakness and boast in His amazing strength, then it was all and is all worth every uncomfortable, fearful moment with these teens.
- What unavoidable weaknesses are you facing in your own life?
- How are you doing remembering that Christ promises His strength?
- Are you ok with the fact that God may never strengthen you permanently in this weakness, always asking you to rely on Him?
Friends, as you answer these questions honestly, I pray that God will instill within you hope for the fears that all of us face (many on a daily basis). Lean into Christ’s strength and delight in God’s power shown through your weakness.
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