The Altitude of Gratitude for The Youth Worker In 2020

Tim Balow
November 25th, 2020

This year hasn’t exactly felt like we’ve been soaring to new heights of youth worker awesomeness. We came into 2020 dreaming big dreams for our students + families, excited for new ideas and opportunities, and hopeful for growth in every way possible.

It’s been a few years now, but I had a couple years of personal/professional loss that helped prepare me mentally for this year in ways I couldn’t understand until this year. That time entailed two major job losses that resulted in a serious financial set back, professional betrayals, relational adversity, and a near-death and life altering health crisis. That time period almost broke me, but even though that year felt like a heavy defeat, that year set the stage for the Spirit to stage a dynamic life comeback that continues to empower me to this day.

So there’s my vulnerability to set the stage for what is about to be shared…

Here’s where all this matters. It matters because what 2020 has shown me as we (Youth Specialties) converse and engage youth workers across the country, there’s tremendous comeback and staying power that is being lived out.

None of us knew how to navigate a pandemic, but the faith, hope, and love lived out by youth workers has elevated the whole Church to a special place of gratitude this year. In the same way my setback years (my words) gave me a new view of what must be done, 2020 has given youth workers the opportunity to pursue faith/hope/love in the name of Jesus, in the face of horrible and crippling circumstances.

Yes, the Church needs to thank youth workers.

  • Youth workers encountered uncertain job statuses.
  • Youth workers fought for relevancy amidst the changing dynamic of programming in the church.
  • Youth workers clashed with undeniable tension with race and relationships in their community.
  • Youth workers struggled to find balance in family life amidst distance learning, isolation, and a newfound work from home routine.
  • Youth workers scrapped to put together finances to enable not only youth programming to continue, but to feed their families.

Here’s why youth workers take gratitude to a whole new altitude for the Church this year:

Relentless Pursuit of Innovation In The Face of A Grave Health Crisis

With precautions, changing guidance, and unforeseen byproducts of the pandemic coming in every week since March, youth workers passionately pursued ways to engage students, in-person or virtually, every single week.

A pandemic couldn’t stop youth workers from innovating ways to celebrate graduations, create virtual youth group experiences, nurture student relationships, and empower small group leaders to build community on Zoom.

If you innovated this year as a youth worker, the Church thanks you for cultivating a culture that values relationships at the cost of anything that may have worked in the past. Everything had to work differently this year, and the comeback power you chose to live into transformed life for many families this year.

Hard Sought Convictions In The Face Of Racial And Relational Tension

It was a dangerous year for relationships. Not just because of pandemic life, but because of the subtle and obvious situations that left us speechless, angry, and isolated within our communities and families. Whether it was racial tensions or trying to navigate relationships in a digital environment, youth workers formed and reformed convictions to be able to engage the relational dynamics presented in 2020.

The Church needs to thank youth workers for leading the way with courageous conversations, discovering convictions, and showing a faithful presence to finding God’s image in all people, seeking reconciliation among everyone.

Finding Healthy Life In The Face Of Countless Crises And Opportunities

Some youth workers lost their jobs. Some youth workers discovered new opportunities. Some youth workers just found new life in valuing their mental health and connections with families.

Youth workers found ways to live out balance and find health regardless of their external circumstances. They found ways to live out of the life in the Spirit that is greater than whatever is happening around them.

We’ve heard stories of youth workers losing parents because of Covid. We’ve seen the tragedy of churches struggling to pay their staff. We’ve seen the struggle of marriages trying to navigate how to make family life work in distance learning and parents working from home.

However the resiliency and the discovery of what really matters in healthy life in community and the Spirit has been where we need to say thank you to youth workers.

The Altitude of Gratitude

It hasn’t felt like a soaring year, and in maybe many ways we’ve felt very low across the board.

However, even in the lowest of lows, we can find gratitude. This season of gratitude should lead us all to see the win’s from the year in a new light.

Even more so, the wins of this past year, albeit difficult wins to truly feel in light of the heaviness of the year show us how much youth workers work hard to help students find and follow Jesus, even in the most dire of circumstances.

We can soar higher to end out 2020 knowing how grateful we all responded to where life has taken us this year. Maybe someday we will all look back on 2020 and be grateful for where it’s taken us.

However, no matter where 2020 takes us into the future, the Church is grateful for all the ways youth workers stood in the face of crises and put their best innovation, relational savviness, and Spirit-centered life forward for the hope and wholeness of students.

As the saying goes, “where there is life, there is hope”. No matter what, we can be grateful for love, grateful for faith, and we can be grateful for hope in Jesus too.

Tim Balow

TIm Balow is has served in a variety of youth worker roles between Chicago and Minneapolis over the last 10 years. Tim currently serves with Youth Specialties working on projects focused on customer and content operations. Tim's passion is to serve the under-resourced youth worker and to encourage the next generation of students to step into a transformative relationship with Jesus.

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.