We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
(Cardinal Dearden, 1979)
We had pulled together a handful of youth workers from our city for a little mutual encouragement (and pizza). As we settled around the table, I was hoping that this could be a time to step away from the expectations to be good at what we do and to offer each other encouragement and prayer.
We went around the table to each check-in, and the check-in somehow morphed into an epic youth worker preach-off.
One after the other, my youth worker friends shared glowing reports of the amazing things God was doing in their ministries (“…and just in case you’re interested, here’s a flier with a discount code for your group”). By the time we made it halfway around, I began to wonder if I really had what it takes to do the work of youth ministry since my ministry wasn’t seeing the epic fruit of my colleagues. I just couldn’t muster the breathless enthusiasm of my friends.
We youth workers, as a species, have not been short on passion or willingness to swing for the fence.
But the studies are now done. The results are in. Our individualistic, isolated passion for youth ministry is just not going to be enough to move the needle. It will not be enough to give us the “big win.”
What if we don’t need another heroic champion? What if the youth ministry “cathedral” we’re building will be hundreds of years in the making? What if the only way for us to achieve the big win is for us to pick our heads up from the immediacy of our own programs and passions to see, celebrate, and support the Spirit’s work through others? While I hope to lead the ministries I’m responsible for with passion and intention until I die, in the meantime, I’m honored to labor alongside countless, selfless saints in our field.
- I celebrate what Kara and the Fuller Youth Initiative are doing with their Million Youth project, bringing a radically wide cross-section of players to the dreaming table together.
- I love the ways youth workers are coming alive and finding the hearts and their callings through Mark O’s Youth Cartel cohorts.
- I love the way that Rick has so faithfully and beautifully championed forward-thinking youth ministry for over 30 years at Group.
- I love what Reggie and Orange are doing, calling us back to a ministry approach that no longer ignores the family.
- I love what Chanon Ross and his colleagues are doing with the Lilly Endowment, making huge investments in the future of the church.
- I love what Andy Root is doing at Luther, what Angela Gorrell is doing at Baylor, what Abigail Rusert is doing at Princeton, what Jill Olds is doing at Yale.
There’s not enough time to mention the Dougs, Joshes, Stephanies, Mandys, Gregs, Heathers, Marvs, Duffys, Walts, Kendas, Jeremys, Deeches, and Jeffs. There’s not enough time to name all those in the faithful throng of youth workers who may never write a book or start an organization but who hold this work together one prayer at a time, one meeting with a spiritual director at a time, one kid at a time.
Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash