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when you want to quit youth ministry
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When You Want to Quit Youth Ministry

One of the most frustrating conversations I have with friends is the “You should quit ministry” conversation. Sure, there are days when I want to quit, more than I care to admit.

You know those days. They are filled with church politics, angry parents, mess-ups, complacent students, bad youth nights, and heartache. These are the moments in which tragedy occurs or the moments when a student we have discipled for six years decides following the Lord is just too hard. They are the moments you need someone to say, “What you do matters.” The last thing you need to hear is, “You know you can serve God anywhere, have you thought about being a barista at Starbucks?” Yes, you have thought about that too, but every time you almost press “send” on the internet application the Holy Spirit whispers you should stay. So what I do not need to hear on my wretched days is that I could walk away. I suspect those statements are not helpful to you either.

When your own “I QUIT” moments occur, consider these five things:

Is this where God placed you?

I think it is healthy to assess on a regular basis if you are where God wants you. This can apply to the church you are at, the job you hold, or if you should even stay in youth ministry at all. However, whenever someone says to me, “Have you considered another vocation?” I feel like I hear the Lord ringing in my ears, “NO!” As long as I know this is exactly where God wants me, then I need to stay put. If I doubt, then it’s good to get flat on my face before Jesus.

You are allowed to have a bad day (Or 15).

It’s alright to have a crummy day. Feel all the feelings that go with that. It is certainly more healthy to share it all with the Lord. We have great Biblical examples in Elijah, Jonah, Job, Jeremiah, David, and even Paul of those who didn’t handle every day perfectly. The God who created everything (even our emotions) can handle those same feelings. There are seasons when one bad day melds into the next. When frustrations begin to mount, it is really easy to put all of our energy into what is going wrong. This is the place where trouble occurs. Have your bad day, scream it out, then refocus and put your energy on Christ.

Write down some God moments.

I have heard stories about a folder we should all keep filled with thank you notes from students and parents. Well, fact is the “thank you’s” haven’t been huge for me over the years. YET, that doesn’t mean God hasn’t shown up and worked in the lives of the families I serve. On those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, cry yourself to sleep. Then wake up the next day and take some time to intentionally reminisce on ways you have seen God move in the lives you interact with. Write down a few. Start a journal, or maybe even a jar of papers with memories on them. Then the next time this happens, read a few and write down a few more.

What fills you up?

It can be easy to get worn down because we are stuck on the hamster wheel of doing. When is the last time you stopped and did something that you just like to do? Play a game, go for a run, read a book, binge watch something on the internet, crochet booties for your dog, have coffee with a friend. Spend some time with the Lord, just because you like Him, not because you have to prepare for the next program. On the bad days, sometimes we realize they hit us extra hard because we are empty.

Find “safe” people.

If I know there are people who will always tell me to quit. They are probably not the people I should turn to when I am raw. Instead, there are safe people who pray with me, love me, encourage me that I am not a failure, and point me back to Christ. One close friend encourages me most when she says, “I don’t know what to say, but I can support you.” The people who get you, and get why you don’t quit, these are the people we call who remind us that God lead us to this ministry and will get us through it.

Sometimes the Lord calls us out, and there may come a time when I do leave this place or this ministry. However, it won’t be because I am giving up on a bad day when I want to quit. My hope is that when I move to the next step, it will be because this is where God has called me to next. I know there will be days I want to quit in the next phase of life, too.

22 thoughts on “When You Want to Quit Youth Ministry

  1. Avatar

    This is what I needed, I have been feeling down on my youth ministry and some days i want to give up but God knows why he brought me here. Thank you! God Bless

    • Avatar

      Nina,

      There are days when we all wonder why God brought us where He did. We can get so down and frustrated with times when it doesn’t feel like it is going well. All I can say is to keep moving closer to Him, and don’t push Him away. On the days when you can’t keep going remember He loves you no matter if you are “doing” ministry or not. Keep hearing His voice and resting in the truth of who He is. Also, know you are making an impact even on the days you don’t see it at all.

  2. Avatar
    Lauren Camire

    I work in Youth Ministry and just wanted to say that your posts always encourage me. Although I don’t feel like quitting (today :-), your articles always resonate with me, so THANK YOU!

    • Avatar

      Lauren,

      Thanks so much for your encouragement. I am glad you don’t feel like quitting today 🙂 Praying for another awesome day serving right where the Lord has you!

  3. Avatar

    Thanks for your post. My wife and I have been feeling rather discouraged lately. Your reminder is helpful and encouraging. We won’t quit today! May God give us grace to continue in our 30 plus years serving students. God is Jehovah Jireh (God will Provide). Thank you!

    • Avatar

      Doug,

      Thank you for serving for 30 years. That is a long, faithful and obedient time to be serving youth, families and the Lord. I am sorry for the discouragement lately. Somedays we don’t see as much fruit as we would like do we? I am grateful that you keep leaning into Him and remembering He is the reason you are where you are. Thank you so much for serving.

  4. Avatar
    Daylan Whitney

    Thank you for this. I was literally sitting with my laptop feeling like a failure and wondering if I had made the right decision to become a youth pastor, when out from the corner of the screen popped a notification for this email. I had to laugh because sometimes our Dad (God) is so obvious in His timing and effort He puts into making us who we are meant to be 🙂

    So thank you for being vulnerable and obedient to Him in writing this because there were many who needed it I’m sure.

    • Avatar

      Daylan,

      God loves us so much He takes care of us in a myriad of ways. I am grateful that today this could be one of those ways. We ALL have those days when we feel like a failure, and wonder what we are doing and why. We start thinking about all the money we could make with a different focus, or comparing ourselves to others who seem to be amazing superheroes in ministry. While we know that we shouldn’t we still do. Know that in God’s eyes your showing up in obedience to Him IS Success- YOU ARE- planting seeds He will grow and it matters that you are there.

  5. Avatar
    Tammy Greene

    Talk about a message from God! It’s been especially hard these last 2 months and doesn’t seem to be getting better anytime soon and since I’m a second career pastor I’ve been thinking especially today that I could leave it all and go back to a secular job. Your words of “Did God call you here?” reminded me that Yes he’s called me here. Thanks for being Gods’s voice to me today and saying exactly what I needed to hear.

    • Avatar

      Tammy-

      I am grateful you listened to God’s call and keep hearing His voice. Second career is hard, but know you bring in SO much extra wisdom to what you do. You have life experience, and skills from you “other” career that bolsters what He is doing now. I am sorry it doesn’t seem to get better and the bad days have extended. Remember as you plant and water and mulch and take care of seeds and seem to see know growth, that isn’t true. He is at work, the Lord is using you mightily (even though it doesn’t feel like it) and your obedience to His call matters so much to Him.

  6. Avatar
    Luke McClain

    Leneita,

    Thanks so much for writing this article. Powerful words here!

    Thank you!

  7. Avatar
    Denise Perrone

    Youth Ministry could be a little tricky sometimes, and we all feel as though we are not reaching them.
    I sometimes wonder if they even acknowledge I am there !!!!. However I refuse to give up that quick.
    So I try a different approach . I ask the class what they would do if they were me. I ask them to break up in groups and share their thoughts how they would handle them if they were me. I personally have a great group. So sometimes when I feel nothing works, The Mom in me comes out. I sit and wonder if maybe they are going through a rough time, Unfortunately so many kids carry a lot of baggage in their heart. I think we should feel proud that God had faith in us to be the angels of Youth Ministry.
    Lets work together and try to help each other reach our goal to be the best Catechist we could be
    Good Luck and God Bless

  8. Avatar

    Thank you. I needed this. It has been a rough season.

  9. Avatar
    Patrick Loughran

    We had a 3 person team and we’re going into a public park 2 nights a week. The youth we were taking had drug and alcohol issues, among other things. We went persistently for over a year. Things got bad when a group of the kids were drinking hard alcohol. One passed out. I took him home to hid parents they were grateful. But we decided to stop. Because it got out of control. The other team members felt it was for a “season”. 1 1/2 years. The thought of a seasonal worker just don’t sit right with me. We are to be ready in season and out of season. So I’m praying to re launch. With new team members. And go for it again. Not just when everything is good. But expect hardship. Expect seasonal climates they change but Good call has not and will not change.

  10. Avatar
    Patrick Loughran

    We had a 3 person team and we’re going into a public park 2 nights a week. The youth we were taking had drug and alcohol issues, among other things. We went persistently for over a year. Things got bad when a group of the kids were drinking hard alcohol. One passed out. I took him home to his parents they were grateful. But we decided to stop. Because it got out of control. The other team members felt it was for a “season”. 1 1/2 years. The thought of a seasonal worker just don’t sit right with me. We are to be ready in season and out of season. So I’m praying to re launch. With new team members. And go for it again. Not just when everything is good. But expect hardship. Expect seasonal climates they change but Gods call has not and will not change.

  11. Avatar

    Thank you for sharing this! I am struggling with getting back into The Youth Ministry due to the demographics of the congregation, it’s mostly adults over 50. My prayer is that our Youth Ministry grows beyond what we can imagine and the leaders are committed to this ministry.

  12. Avatar

    I also needed to hear this. Especially after youth night yesterday. I’ve never actually been so upset. Thank you for this post.

  13. Avatar

    Thank you. This is me today and I needed some sort of encouragement.

  14. Avatar

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been wrestling with doubts lately as I’ve failed to live up to my Pastor’s high expectations of me recently by dropping out of a very challenging certification course he expected me to succeed in. I just wasn’t ready for the pace and time demands of it at this time in my life and family, something I told him before I was forced into it. Now I’m probably going to lose my position and that’s feeding an emotional mix of both doubt and determination. Some unsolicited affirmation from two parents today who have no idea this is all going on was very encouraging. Please pray for me as I learn to lean into the Lord more and respond to His call to grow in my relationship with Him through this.

  15. Avatar

    Hi Leneita,
    Thanks so much for writing this article. I have been feeling rather discouraged lately. I needed this and thank God for the Word of Wisdom. God bless you, your family and ministry.

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When You Want to Quit Youth Ministry

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