Getting into youth ministry is like signing up for a basketball league where every 30 seconds thereâ€™s another slam-dunk opportunity. But once you get into it, it feels much more like a soccer game where thereâ€™s a heck of a lot of running around before reaching a goal.
Let me explain.
If youâ€™re like me, you do student ministry for those great moments: When a student finally â€œgets it.â€ When small group conversation goes deep. When a teenager posts, â€œBest weekend ever!â€ on the Monday after the retreat. These are moments that make it all worth it!
But what about all the other in-between moments? The moments that aren’t so exceptional â€“ that are normal. Average. Gray. Like when you have to clean up the youth room after everyone has evacuated. Or when you have to make a hundred phone calls to get the event planned (the one that getâ€™s cancelled because of bad whether). Or when you have to dissect the copy machine because somewhere hidden deep inside of it is a stuck piece of paperâ€¦ allegedly. What about all the undesirable, underrated and unexceptional tasks of youth ministry?
Now, I get that there are â€œsoccer playersâ€ out there â€“ that is, people who love the running around. But my general response is, â€œThis is not what I signed up for!â€
But I wonder if God can teach us all something about those gray times in between. Perhaps the exceptional times of discovery in ministry are not the moments we expect.
Oswald Chambers wrote: “It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. WE HAVE TO BE EXCEPTIONAL IN THE ORDINARY THINGS, to be holy in the mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.”
Â I am guilty of wanting five-minute fixes. Of asking for humility and success and patienceâ€¦ and wanting them all right now. To some extent, we are all tempted toward the big, grandiose occasions, when people point and say, “What a life-changing leader! What an incredible ministry!”
But what if our best leadership today was picking up after students? What if worship found itâ€™s way into filling out finances? What if God was waiting to meet with us each day as we move between meetings?
And what if God’s most exceptional gifts to you today in your ministry were hidden in the common wrapping of everyday tasks?
Sam Townsend works on the Training and Programming Team at YouthWorks, where he helps develop materials to point teenagers toward Jesus. After the workday, Sam is a youth group leader, a seminary student and a conversationalist over half-price appetizers.