That’s not a patronizing statement or a self-help rally cry.
You really are okay.
If you have the luxury of sitting in a climate-controlled environment while you access this blog over your computer or mobile device, you’re already doing better than a large portion of the rest of the world. It may not be easy, and the world may feel against you, but chances are that you’ll “make it” even if things are feeling tough these days.
Maybe I’m wrong and you’re in the Third World somewhere, using a wi-fi signal bouncing off a local business to access this blog from your tin shack. I know that’s not even a stereotype. A missionary friend of mine mentioned you to me – that you really do exist and this is really how you access wisdom for ministry. If so, I pray you find what I’m about to share with my First World friends somewhat humorous.
Because, First World friends, we often do complain about things that don’t compare to what the people in Hebrews 11 faced:
“Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated– the world was not worthy of them.” (Hebrews 11:37-39)
So… maybe you are in a tough season right now. Maybe you’re reading this from a library computer because you’re out of work after leaving a church that acted like a tool while treating you like a tool. Perhaps there’s something more serious happening, like someone in your family is sick and you can’t afford to pay the bills because for all the extra time you put into ministry you don’t have the extra money for all the co-pays in front of you.
I know that’s not even a stereotype either.
So assuming some satire might prod what I’m trying to share, here are a handful of First World Youth Worker problems:
- Being in a traditional church that frustrates you because they can’t decide during the Lord’s Prayer to say “Debts/Sins/Trespasses.”
- Being in a modern church that frustrates you because the worship team battles over “sloppy wet kiss” and “unforeseen kiss.”
- Making sure you get enough caffeine in you so you have the energy to teach your next lesson on addictions.
- Finding a close enough buffet for your students to splurge at before they cross the border on your mission trip to serve the poor.
- Trying to find the right hashtag so others can globally find your tweet that begins with “I’m so humbled by…”
- Being misunderstood.
- Not being able to find an adapter for your hose to fill up your water balloons faster for your water balloon war.
- Taking a selfie for your social media profile pic that captures you being cool enough that teenagers will want to hang out with you, and pensive enough that their parents find you wise enough to do so.
- Creating a clever enough tweet that it inspires kids to come to youth group, and yet is under 140 characters so families on old cellphone plans don’t complain that you’re sending too many messages and unsubscribe from your communications.
- Walking around Wal-Mart, looking for an object lesson on the Resurrection that won’t cost more than the $2.76 in your pocket.
- Coming up with yet another way to reword the email/note/tweet you’re about to send to that one person in your life who constantly critiques you.
- Holding your temper when the word “micro-manager” comes up, yet again, by someone who is accusing you of micro-management (and is willing to micro-manage you with 20 approaches on how you can avoid being a micro-manager).
- Not being sure what to do when a youth group kid finds your actual, physical Bible and there really isn’t all that much highlighting or notes in it.
- Being misunderstood.
- Having more people being baptized than any other area of the church… and not feeling just a wee-bit superior about it.
- Sitting on the bus next to the kid who brought a Sam’s Club size jar of pickles with… that he’s personally reaching into and pulling pickles out with his hand. (You think I’m making this up?)
- Renting a Harry Potter movie to watch with your students, because the Christian families in your church don’t want you to rent “Noah.”
- Discerning if it’s worth it to spring for the extra guacamole at Chipotle. (note: may not be specific to youth workers)
- Realizing that you’re old enough that you have to explain every pop culture reference you’re familiar with and ask for an explanation on every pop culture reference your students are familiar with.
- Being thankful “that one kid” came on your trip. Then, five minutes later, realizing their personality/issues/charisma just took over your trip.
- Considering all the reasons why you should avoid teaching about the theology of “penal substitution” to a group of teenage guys.
- Trying to figure out if the Christian kid asking you your theory on Creation is a young-earth enthusiast or an emerging-evolutionist.
- Making a calendar creative enough that kids will hang it up, in a font parents can read and with events/methodology that your church leadership can’t criticize.
- Being misunderstood.
Again, even if these statements are stereotypes… you’re okay.
On the other hand, I wrote all of these out of my own journey as a youth worker. Maybe they’re not exaggerations after all.
Here’s the thing – pain is real. I don’t mean to imply otherwise. If you twist your ankle, you may go to the emergency room for it. However, if you’re sitting in a hospital bed for it and the person next to you comes in having been in a huge car accident where her life is on the line, the perspective alone of comparison may help you put your pain into context. Feel free to say “ouch” if you need to, but also feel free to recognize if you’re being a diva where you don’t need to.