Ministry with young people
Working with young people is far different to what I imagined.
I’ve been a Sunday School teacher since 2019 and I fell in love with it as soon as I started. Attending church every Sunday, during my mid-teens, was not my cup of tea. I found the services to be lengthy, I battled to understand the sermons and I simply thought the whole practice was exhausting. Consequently, I moved away from the church and began using school and ‘life’ as an excuse to avoid attending church. My favoured excuse was, “Sorry, mom, I can’t go to church. I have to study!” – An excuse I am sure many of us have used before. However, one day I was approached by our new Youth Pastor, at the time, and she convinced me to join Sunday School but this time as a teacher.
Brilliant! I immediately became enamoured. The idea of only partially attending church and when I did, it was to spread the love and word of God with children. I could not think of a better way to spend my Sunday mornings.
Years later, now 2022, I continued being a Sunday school teacher but this time I was approached with a new position – Youth-Co-ordinator. I thought to myself, “How different could this possibly be? Youth-Coordinator, Sunday school teacher: It is basically the same thing, right?”
WRONG! I can admit that I had certainly underestimated the position. At the time I began as a Youth-Coordinator, I was thankful that I had repaired my relationship with the church and my relationship with God. I no longer dreaded going to church in fear of not understanding the sermons and I no longer needed my parents’ vigorous encouragement. This repairment of the relationship is honestly a substantial reason as to why I continued to find a greater meaning in youth ministry
In the beginning, I sensed confusion from people when I explained what I do and why I struggled with it. “What is so difficult about teaching kids about God?”, they would say, and I would be revved up to give them 10 000 reasons why, but I chose to reduce my reply to “I don’t know, man. It’s just a lot.” The truth is, in a very incomparable way, ministry with children is more difficult that people make it out to be. Aiming to teach children about God but also trying not to shove your beliefs down children’s throat, is a lot of work.
Having conversations with young teenagers about whether God exists when we encounter so much evil in the world, is a lot of work.
And pouring your heart into lesson preparations for only one child to show up, is a lot of work.
Youth ministry is a great deal of service that in many ways I have learned to love and to know that it is the Lord’s work.
Despite all 10 000 reasons that I was prepared to justify the endeavours and dismay I experienced; I discovered that youth ministry had been extremely rewarding. Finding innovative ways to help children grow spiritually and helping them ground themselves in the Lord, has been a peerless experience. I have found it most rewarding to listen to and discuss our different interactions and interpretations of Christianity and essentially how we feel that we’ve been called to live within the presence of God. Even in times when only one child will show up, the enthusiasm, curiosity and amiability brought by that one child made me feel as though I was blessed with the presence of a classroom filled with children. That single moment became an immediate indication to me that God is always working within us, even in conditions that I see to be unfavourable and has allowed me to fully acknowledge that God truly resides in the heart of every child.
Ministry with young people has taught me lessons that I never imagined I needed to learn and has assisted me to acknowledge that in the moments when I feel so distant from God, I am closer than I think. The distress of answering ‘difficult’ questions or a lack of attendance co-existing with the eagerness of questioning their faith and engaging in activities, is how I would best describe the necessary balance and my experience in ministry with young people. In his book, Leadership 101, Tim Alford explains that in times when you feel like giving up, you should “fix your eyes on Jesus” and pursue the journey He has called you upon. In saying this, I will continue to fight the good fight and to ignite the curiosity of Christianity within young people.