7 Reasons to be Thankful in Youth Ministry
The final weeks of the year feel very much like the final stretch of a marathon. You can see the finish line, but you got nothing left. Your calves are burning, you’ve stopped sweating at this point, your lungs are filled with dry air, and every muscle that could cramp is doing so. Basically, this is the final stretch of the year in youth ministry. You probably are experiencing the spiritual equivalent of all the marathon runner’s final strides. (Well, maybe still the cramping after you were dared by a junior high student to eat an entire Crave Case at White Castle, which may or may not be a true story.)
Stuck right next to the finish line of the year is this holiday called “Thanksgiving”. Heard of it? It’s a time where families sit down and give thanks for all their blessings. By this time in the calendar year, you are just trying to come up for air. You’ve witnessed every type of extra-curricular activity to show your support for students, prepared and taught countless lessons, counseled many in behavior, relationships, and difficulty, and hopefully have done well enough in balancing your family and ministry life that you do not have to re-introduce yourself to your kids.
So as you stumble across the finish line of 2017. What do you, who just experienced a marathon of youth ministry, have to be thankful for? God tells us in I Thessalonians 5:18 that we need to be thankful in all circumstances (and he wouldn’t ask us to do something we couldn’t do!). Let me get you started with a few that will hopefully bring encouragement to your over-worked/burdened/stressed/fatigued heart.
I Love My “Job.”
I get to do what? Hang out with teenagers. Help students navigate through a very confusing time in their life. Teach God’s Word and apply it to the lives of young men and women. Plan events that will give lost students a chance to hear the Gospel. Not many people can say those words “I love my job”. Well, maybe because it isn’t a job for many of us. It is a joy.
Small victories are still victories. She brought her Bible for the first time. He had the courage to bring a friend. He lifted his head up the entire lesson, stayed awake, and get this…actually listened. She said something encouraging. He finally took a shower. These may seem like small victories. But they are still victories!
Welcome to the Family.
Obviously, these thankful thoughts are in no particular order, because would be at the top of the list. Our human hearts do not have enough emotion and the English language does not have the words to express how thankful we are when we see someone trust in Christ and become part of God’s family. Kids, whose parents could care less, now have a relationship with the Heavenly Father. Teens who have been bullied now have a Savior who died for them. Students with little hope now have an eternal future. The other six on this list are the stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. This, right here, the salvation of teens, is the turkey at the middle of the table.
“Lord, Help Me Get One More.”
Desmond Doss was a soldier who became an American hero in the battle at Hacksaw Ridge. Known as one of the deadliest battles of the war, Desmond Doss went on the battlefield without a weapon. Because of his firm beliefs, he would not touch a gun. As a medic, he envisioned his job as saving lives rather than taking them. And he did just that, as he was credited with saving 75 men’s lives. All the while praying these words, “Lord, help me get one more”. This moral of this story is true of the youth worker. Your job is never done. Yes, that is something to be thankful for. It inspires us to get up in the morning, to stay up late with students, and to grind out another lesson. Our prayer should reflect Desmond Doss’, as we should be praying for the hearts of these students, that God would “help me get one more”.
Return on Your Investment.
Paul, in Ephesians 1:15, thank God for the faith of the believers and their love for others. Let’s be honest, youth ministry can be a thankless job at times. Our thank you card often comes in the form of seeing teenagers grow into faithful believers who show compassion for others in their adult life. Your blood, sweat, and tears today are an investment in the future faith of these students. What a blessing.
“That’s Not a Knife.”
As he was held up at knifepoint, Paul Hogan pulls out his Bowie knife and utters this infamous line in the movie “Crocodile Dundee”. Oftentimes, we see the defeat of spiritual battles on the horizon. Temptations, teens making poor decisions, families being torn apart from sin…are all indicators there is a battle going on. We must remember and be thankful our God is in control, and although Satan seems to have us at knifepoint…we have the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and prayer to be able to say, “That’s not a knife”.
No White Flag.
Be thankful for verses like Philippians 1:6. We truly are a work in progress. Right? Maybe you have arrived, but I sure have a long ways to go. My patience runs out on the student that ranks high on the annoying scale. My faith is weak when it seems like there is little hope of restoration. My pride gets in the way all too often. Be thankful we have a God that does not give up on us when we fail time and time again. He has always been faithful, He is faithful, and He always will be faithful to the very end.
As we drag to the finish of this year, keep your head up. Enjoy those last strides to the finish line, and thank God for the many blessings He has given you every step of the way.
Jeff Beckley serves as a Youth & Family Pastor in Columbus, Ohio. He recently authored a teen and young adult devotional called Bottom Line Devotional (WWW.BOTTOMLINEDEVOTIONAL.COM). His blog WWW.JEFFBECKLEY.ORG serves as a tool and resource for youth ministries across the globe.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.