How I Realized My Youth Worker Job Wasn’t A Right Fit
Stepping away from a ministry can be very difficult. Even when things seem to be going poorly, many of us feel a duty to continue because we believe so strongly in the mission. It can be even more difficult when things, for the most part, seem to be going well. But sometimes a particular person is just not the right fit for a particular role or even a particular congregation. I was such a person in such a role in such a congregation.
My supervisor and I were in the midst of our regular weekly meeting when he mentioned the short devotional I had taught to children over the weekend during a community outreach event. I shared the Gospel narrative, including the fact that we are all sinners and that sin comes with the penalty of separation from God. I thought I had done so fairly gently. But shortly after, a member of our church complained to my supervisor saying they didn’t think we should be teaching eight-year-olds about hell. My supervisor disagreed with the parent and told them so. He wasn’t bringing this to my attention to correct me in any way, only to keep in the loop as to how my actions were perceived by some in our congregation.
Another time, I was having a regular weekly meeting with someone that I supervised. Our Sunday school curriculum for children and youth was focused on the Minor Prophets for an entire quarter. Thirteen weeks straight of warnings against unrighteousness and stories of God’s wrath can be challenging for any Sunday school class. It was especially difficult for our volunteers teaching the youngest children. A parent shared a story with my supervisee about finding their daughter’s dolls strewn all over the floor. When the parent asked what had happened, the girl responded that God had smote the dolls for their wickedness. Again, the parent was concerned that we were teaching that wrath is real, and preferred that we only focus on God’s love and forgiveness. My supervisee handled the situation admirably explaining that everything in the Bible is true and valuable, and then told me about it to keep me in the loop.
These two stories highlight an aspect of the congregation’s approach to evangelism and theology. They were very concerned for how outsiders would feel coming into our church. Would they feel welcomed? Condemned? Loved? Ostracized? As a result, unpleasant theology received a minimal amount of attention in favor of more attractive aspects of our faith. God’s sacrificial love and acceptance of the sinner were emphasized, and invitations for repentance and the reality of hell frequently went unmentioned. As such, these two stories also highlight how I was out of step with the congregation’s approach to evangelism and theology.
Being out of step with your church is challenging. In my case, sometimes we were able to march in the same direction; but it was usually at different tempos. And at other times, we weren’t able even to do that. The leadership, both congregational and denominational, made decisions with which I couldn’t entirely agree. And sometimes I had to make decisions for my area of ministry that felt opposed to the general tone and feeling of the church as a whole.
These instances were relatively rare. For the most part, my ministry seemed to be bearing fruit. Youth were accepting Jesus. Those who were already Christians were maturing in their faith, Biblical knowledge, and commitment to doing what’s right. Parents came to trust me. And new youth were being invited by their friends to share our community.
But those successes were being realized in spite of being a misfit within the whole congregation. Can you imagine the success if we had been fully in step together? I would have had a larger pool of adults to recruit into my approach to evangelism and theology. What was of utmost value within the wider church would have been echoed within the youth ministry. The leadership would have had me as a full partner in the direction they wanted to march.
Ultimately, I knew that I would not be able to remain in that position forever. Any leadership team needs to be able to march the same direction at the same pace. Since I was unable to march with the church entirely, and it wasn’t my role to set that direction and pace, I had to give up my leadership role and go elsewhere.
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.