Youth Ministry is Terrifying

Being a youth leader is terrifying.

Am I allowed to say that?

This past weekend I attended a youth retreat where the theme was “Identity in Christ.” It feels a bit coincidental (though I suspect it may be, to use Christian-speak, “a God thing”), considering it’s a topic I’ve been thinking, writing, and hearing about in several places about lately. For the middle and high schoolers I spent time with this weekend though, “Who am I?” is an even bigger question than it is for me as a 23-almost-24-year old.

And the truth is, I don’t know what to tell them. I think “finding your identity in Christ” is a starting point, but the particulars of how that looks in everyday life are a very different story–which isn’t a very pretty, wrapped-with-a-bow answer to hand middle and high schoolers. It’s kind of what I want to tell them about all of life–“You just sort of figure it out as you go,” which isn’t a very good answer for a lot of things, much less how to find your identity in Christ.

But it’s the only answer I have right now.

Try as hard as I may, I will never get the answers “perfectly right” in conversations with the students in our youth group, or with anyone else.

I might say dumb stuff, or say the wrong words at the wrong time, or not say the right words at the right time, and I might not have the answers that will satisfy their questions.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be saying this, or at least shouldn’t be posting it on the Internet. Students or their parents or their friends may be reading these words, going, “Why should I trust this leader who doesn’t have her own stuff together?” Or “This is the girl who’s hanging out with my child and supposedly helping shape them in their walk with Christ?”

It’s not a perfect picture, but it is an honest one.

The questions students in my youth group are asking themselves are the same ones I am, in some way or another, asking myself. Sure, I have a few more years of life experience and some college knowledge in my head, but that only goes so far.

It’s one of the most terrifying parts about any type of formal ministry, and also about relationships in general–when we look at ourselves, it is so easy to think we have nothing to offer. My own stories are not be the same ones they’re living, and it can make mine feel inadequate.

But I’m trying to be reminded of what I do have to offer.

I can listen.

I can accept.

I can show up.

Maybe the simple act of showing up is the most important one of all.

And while my own stories will not be the exact same ones they’re living, they may have similar strands.

So yes, being a youth leader is kind of terrifying. I like to know the answers, and if I don’t know them I like to be able to find them–but life doesn’t come with an answer key. In the absence of perfect answers though, I can offer what I do have, and rest assured that God is big enough to use even that.

Til next time…


p.s. How have you dealt with feeling inadequate for ministry?

4 thoughts on “Youth Ministry is Terrifying

  1. I heard a quote somewhere ” God does not call the equipped, he equips the called”. If youth groups only allowed leaders who have it all together they would be sadly unstaffed. I think showing up and listening is the main point.

  2. Brianna, you are EXACTLY the kind of leader I would want working with my kids. I don’t want my children (if I ever have them) growing up with leaders who have “all the right answers” because people like that tend to be the ones who don’t allow their honest brokenness show. When “perfect” Christians lead growing Christians, it does nothing to serve those being led. In fact, I think it can be incredibly discouraging to know your own brokenness and only see “unbroken” people lifted up around you.
    As long as you, as a leader, keep asking yourself the questions, it doesn’t matter if you come up with the right answers. You are seeking the Lord and serving as a living example of what it means to be a Christian. That is the best any youth group kid could hope for. 🙂

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