Every Friday night I volunteer at my church’s youth group. This involves a few different jobs. I help with the general admin for the youth. I also help them track their quiet times and memory verses so that they can earn their scholarships for Word of Life Camp at the end of the year. On top of this, I lead a small group of girls whom I try and help apply the weekly lesson to their daily lives. I talk to teenagers and make a fool of myself, plan games or ice breakers. While doing all these things I try to have the biggest possible impact on their lives that I can in those precious 3 hours of youth group.
I love it, I honestly wouldn’t give it up for the world, but at the same time while I’m typing this I am also exhausted. My body is sore after the activity I put it through this evening. As an introvert I feel completely depleted of energy after talking to many different teens, joking around, and building relationships. I described this feeling to my parents last weekend: “on Saturday mornings I always wake up with a huge headache and I promise I am not hung over”. So, while I love working with the youth I will not deny that it is hard work and sometimes taxing on my body.
Working at my youth group takes priority in my life. People often ask me to work on Friday evenings and without hesitation I tell them I am unavailable, which costs me income. The same happens with friends, I have a friend who has been asking me to come over to join her and some friends on a Friday evening. Every time she asks me what I am going to be up to I answer: “I’ll be at youth”, and she often responds with a comment like “every week?!” or asks me when I am planning on finding a replacement so I can take some time off. Thus, being at youth can cost me time I sometimes would rather spend doing something “for me”. It’s hard for me to sacrifice these things sometimes. Every now and then I think about all the things I could do that would benefit me on a Friday night, but the thought of not being with my favorite teens seems unbearable in comparison.
So why do I sacrifice that time on a Friday night? Why do I put so much effort into teenagers?
Caring for the Body
The first reason is because I believe that they are the church. Just as much as any believing adult is part of the church, believing teens (and believing children) are part of the church. I don’t believe that they are “the future church” I believe they are the church already. Because of this they need to be taught, guided and trained in the same way as every other member of the church. I want them to be involved in ministry already, because the church is called to serve, and so I do my best to help them with that. I want them to receive teaching and instruction from the Bible, because and they need to be fed just as the church needs to be fed. I want them to have fellowship, because believers are called to have fellowship with one another and I want to help them do so in a way that makes sense for their age. In giving up my Friday nights I am helping believers in the body of Christ.
They Do Amazing Things
When teenagers have people pouring into their lives who believe in them and push and encourage them to do better, they rise to the challenges you set before them. Sometimes my ministry can feel discouraging. I feel like I might be wasting my time because I cannot see any fruit or growth in my teens. Then, out of the blue, they can blow me away with the things they do. They can show immense love to newcomers in a way that I don’t see in the normal church on Sunday mornings and I know isn’t the norm for cliquey teenagers. When they know that I am going through a hard time, they will message me through the week to let me know they are praying for me or bake me cookies and bring me chocolate or just give me extra-long hugs and lots of love. When I see things like that happening in their lives, I know that God is doing something through the youth ministry and hopefully through me.
I Get to Have Relationships With the Most Amazing People I Know
On Friday nights, I get to talk and interact with an incredible group of people. Teenagers who are going through tough times, or good times, or times of hard work and who share that with me. I get to hear about school plays, have my hair braided and learn new things. I get to be confided in and give hugs and joke around with the most amazing people I know. They inspire me every week to be better and to be worthy of their trust. They make me feel beautiful and special. They convict me with their unintentionally profound statements about God and the Bible. They encourage me to be a better Christian. They make me smile and laugh and they give me so much joy.
In some ways I don’t think I will ever be able to explain to someone who hasn’t ministered to youth why I minister to youth. But it is truly my favorite things and I wouldn’t want to give it up just for the sake of having my Friday evenings free.