This last week I got the privilege to hang out at my church with 50 visiting youth workers. These men and women are our PDYM state mentors and they range from late 20’s to late 50’s. They reminded me why I love youth workers.
After these new and old friends left my house on Thursday night, I told my wife, these last three days were such a reminder why I love being with youth workers. Cathy then asked me a simple question, what specifically is it that you like about them? In my typical list-making-mind style, I rattled off 10 reasons I like being with youth workers. I thought they would be fun for me to list and I also thought you might want to take a minute to see if these describe you.
So, here’s 9 reasons why I love being with youth workers (when it came time to write them down I couldn’t remember the 10th and neither could Cathy which means the last idea was probably forced so my list could be the nice number of 10).
1. Youth workers love to laugh
We laughed so much while we were together! I instituted some silly fines for the 50 of us that ranged from $1 to $10 and the money we collected will pay for an African youth pastor to fly out to our PDYM conference. Every time a fine was levied, someone cracked a humorous comment and the place would crack-up. I realize this isn’t deep, but I love to laugh and these youth workers represent so many who are fun and always on the verge of laughter and don’t take themselves too serious while taking god very serious.
2. Youth workers love to eat
Once again, not deep but very true. I love to eat and there was always someone pulling food out of a backpack or running to the store at our breaks and bringing food. I weighed in the high 180’s on Tuesday. Friday morning I was over 190.
3. Youth workers are passionate
Every time a youth worker would talk about their students, their church or their goals for their ministry I could sense and feel their passion for their calling. I love being around people who aren’t settling or using youth ministry as a stepping stone for something bigger. Passion is contagious!
4. Youth workers are open to learn
I have noticed that the older the youth worker is, the more likely he/she is to not have a know-it-all mentality. This may have been the age of our group, but the hunger for junk food was outmatched by the hunger to learn. There was a great humility and a desire to learn from one another. It was very challenging.
5. Youth workers like to discuss things
Everyone seemed to have strong opinions and didn’t settle for easy answers. I would launch a question and say, let’s talk about this for 10 minutes and 30 minutes later they were still talking. I found this very refreshing.
6. Youth workers want to make sure they’re doing the right things
These folks don’t want to waste their time. they want to make sure that what they’re doing in their ministry is fruitful. I was inspired by their desire to ask questions, challenge assumptions and hold their actions up to the actions they were hearing from others. With a humble heart, I heard several of them say, do you think we’re doing the right things?
7. Youth workers are insecure
Since it takes one to know one I was highly sensitive to the insecurities in the room. It was filled with many people-pleasers like myself and I was both sad and thrilled at the same time. Sad to know there are other broken, wounded and eager-for-affirmation and I was thrilled to know that I’m not alone. There’s something about ministry and the desire to help others that seems to align itself with being in ministry. I’m sure insecurity is more universal than I think, but it sure seems to come out a lot in my youth ministry conversations.
8. Youth workers are wounded by their church
Big church. Small church. Baptist. United Methodist. Catholic. It didn’t matter. Every conversation that broke the surface of superficial seemed to unveil some type of hurt within their church. Pastors who were having affairs. Conflict over change. Unsupportive staff members. Not getting a raise in over 5 years. You name it, it seems like I heard it. It was a reminder to me that the church is filled with broken, sinful people who have the great capacity to be insensitive and hurt those who are called by God.
9. Youth workers are called and committed
Regardless of setting, situation or problem these men and women were not about to give up. They felt called and their calling is louder than their wounds and insecurity. They had tasted enough of God’s favor on their life and ministry that they were committed to make the best of difficult situations. Being around 50 people like this makes me want to be a better person. It was a wonderful 3 days.
I’m sure this list describes you too. Thanks for loving god and liking teenagers and expressing those actions in the context of your youth ministry. It’s a privilege to serve God with a community of friends like you!