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4 mins

Confessions of a Youth Worker—The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

 Before I launch into my confession-vomit, a few qualifiers…

  • I love my church… I’d attend even if I didn’t work there (I know not every church staff member can say that with a straight face).
  • I love and respect my pastor and my boss—my bullet-point confessions are not a veiled critique.
  • We’re privileged to serve Jesus at any time, and during every season of life—not just during this crisis time.
  • I  know that ministry is no rougher than any other vocation that must deal with pandemic restrictions—emergency workers, medical professionals, and the military are all dealing with threats that place their lives in jeopardy.

And, yes, in the surreal world of social-distancing, church ministry has been difficult to say the least. But if you’re a youth worker, my struggles likely overlap with your own, so maybe what I’m about to cough-up will be cathartic for you—your own  “Me Too” moment…

What Was Hard at First

  • The technical, logistical, and mental challenge of turning everything on a dime. The first two weeks of “quarantine ministry” were stressful enough to make me wish I could actually quarantine.
  • Time spent systemizing and digitalizing everything we did pre-coronavirus, when all I wanted to do is call (or video chat) everyone in my life and on my team, just to ask if they’re okay.
  • Communicating with our church and community a delicate balance between faith and safety, between trusting Jesus and walking in wisdom.
  • Hearing (or saying), “I’ve been on Zoom all day” (accompanied by a drooling, sagging, glaze-eyed face).
  • Personally knowing (not just hearing on the news) people who’ve lost loved ones to COVID-19. Yeah, but did they have underlying conditions? Shut up—it’s still a shattering loss!
  • Trying to ride a wave of work more daunting than pre-COVID. We first laughed at the Zach Galifianakis meme because we could relate—and then we felt nervous, because we could relate.
  • Canceling a cross-country family visit, then feeling like this predator-virus was trying to cancel me. All of us have had something significant canceled, and are bathed in lament.
  • Worry over parents who fall in the vulnerable category (my father has about 16 months to live).
  • The overwhelming volume of bad news about COVID-19 (and now, “Murder Hornets”)—we’re not wired to ingest this much darkness.

What’s Still Hard

  • Hearing and reading the comments of people pontificating their opposing views on COVID-19—criticizing the “enemy side” with biting and know-it-all condescension. (“You’ll wear a mask if you care about others, and you’re stupid if you’d don’t know that.” “Wearing a mask weakens immunity. Covid’s no worse than the flu and you’re stupid if you’d don’t know that.”) Ugh. Can’t we lay down the vitriol when we need each other the most? Weren’t we getting enough of that pre-pandemic?
  • If you’re in ministry, you were already fighting just to “go to church” during “normal” time. Some of us work for a church but never attend church. It’s no different online. Hosting digital services is a joy on many levels, but it’s definitely not “going” to church when you’re greeting each person who signs in, replying to (or “liking”) nearly every comment,  and type-praying for every request. Keep an eye on Cocobean124—his (or her) comments are starting to cross the line. Is Cocobean124 even listening to what’s going on? Should I feel guilty after the sign-off for logging in to another church’s service just so I can actually “attend”? (And what if I enjoy that service?)
  • Vacillating between gratitude and guilt that I’m still working full-time while many friends and family are furloughed or unemployed.
  • I’m jealous of people who complain about how bored they are, and I feel guilty for that. Some days I come home emotionally fried.

What’s Been Good

  • Sensing God’s presence in a fresh way. He’s not just doing new things in his “Big C” Church; he’s doing new things in me.
  • Scripture passages that have taken on new power and meaning for me (beyond flowery memes on social media) like Psalm 73:23-28 (NLT) and Ephesians 5:16-17 (NLT) and the Amplified version of Colossians 3:15.
  • Connecting with my family and friends in deeper, richer ways—and more frequently.
  • Learning new skills. We’re better for it. As mentally challenging as it’s been, I’m so thankful for the technology that Jesus is helping us learn to use for Kingdom purposes. I’ll never again use “I’m not tech-savvy” as an excuse.
  • Watching other church services, worshipping with Jesus-followers online, and finding joy in what the Lord is doing around the world.
  • In my own home, during those online services, I can sing and dance as loud, off-key, and off-beat as I want to.
  • Seeing the best in people—their generosity, creativity, and humor. I’m stunned by the innovative ways so many are coping (and even thriving) during this time.
  • Seeing, really seeing, what’s been said for years—the church is not a building! People are engaging online. No, it’s not the same, but it’s not supposed to be. Jesus is doing a new thing in the lives of so many, and we get to be part of that.
  • Experiencing our staff work together like one close-knit unit. Our relationships are stronger and closer because of this unholy crisis.
  • Experiencing my pastor as the same person online as he is on stage, and seeing his love for people expressed on Facebook Live just as sincerely as I’ve seen it in the church lobby. Reading the list of comments and prayer requests in the “chat bar,” and remembering how sacred this job is.

What Have We Got to Do?

  • We’ve got to show grace right now to people who see, feel, and say contrary things about “the way things ought to be.”
  • We’ve got to value Sabbath, in pandemic or peace. Sabbath is our “protest of beauty” in the face of anxiety and stress.
  • We’ve got to give others and ourselves permission to feel whatever we feel—Jesus has set us free from the demands of posing, so let’s embrace that freedom.
  • Even while we are reaching out to people we want to point to Jesus, we’ve got to reach out to friends who get us, with whom we can “confess” what we’re feeling in the middle of this.

In the comments space below, I’d love for you to write what’s been “good, bad, and ugly” for you during this time…


Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

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Confessions of a Youth Worker—The Goo...

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