Over the past few months, as my wife and I have been fervently seeking out the place God has for us, we have been contacted by an array of churches asking for our information, our resume, or other tid bits.
Most churches, after viewing resumes, will ask the candidates to whom they are interested in, to fill out a questionnaire - mostly to get a better understanding of the individual, I would imagine.
While I understand the purpose of these surveys, many of them are very involved and I find them to be a bit impersonal. How can you really tell the connection a prospective candidate can have over a piece of paper?
Many of the questions are simple, yet require quite a bit of time to discuss, especially when a candidate is trying to truly convey hopes, dreams, and aspirations. "Tell us your testimony," is often the first question, followed by, "What three books have you read recently?" "What are three strengths you possess?" etc. etc. etc.
While most of them are very time consuming, and can take days to complete, it has been a nice time to discuss with Meredith what is important to us in ministry. Youth ministry is our passion and we both get so excited to discuss new ideas and approaches that will enhance our ministry. It reminds me of the sovereignty of the Lord in bringing my family together.
One question in particular, really got us thinking:
"What area of student ministry excites you the most?"
I know what you are thinking. Simple question. Well, that is what we thought when we first read it, but when we began to discuss and formulate our opinion, it became a deep meaning that challenged our hearts and our emotions.
Here is how we eventually answered it:
"I get so excited to see a life radically changed by Jesus Christ. When faith becomes something more than just words on the pages of an old book, and it becomes something alive and thriving in the hearts and minds of students, I get ecstatic. There is nothing more awesome then when students start inviting their friends and sharing with their neighbors, because they are so energized about what Jesus Christ is doing in their lives. When students finally understand that Jesus wants a personal relationship with them and they are excited to walk with him on a daily basis, those are the moments that keep me going. Those are the moments that make every over night lock-in, every 8 hours in a passenger van, and every junior high swim meet worth it. Student ministry can be daunting and draining - but the moment a student understands the true meaning of being a Christ follower, all I see is the life change."
This simple question, that took 3 seconds to read, took us 3 hours to discuss.
If most youth pastor were honest, they would tell you that it is so easy to forget the true purpose of ministry. It can be tempting to fall into the mundane life of the everyday happenings of ministry, that you forget what is important. You do a program, because you have always done that program - and you have even forgotten why you started doing it in the first place. You complain about the stinkiness in the church van after riding home from the lake with 15 sweaty 7th graders. You complain at the 500 Krispie Kreme donuts piled high in your front yard because the neighbors might complain. (yes, that really happened to me).
So maybe not EVERY youth pastor would have those same complaints, they only sounded familiar because they have been uttered from my mouth. I had been that guy. I had allowed myself to get to the point where I had forgotten about the true beauty found in seeing someone come to know Jesus.
While God continued to allow lives to be changed in the student ministry, it wasn't because I was pumped, jazzed, and ecstatic about winning lost souls. Youth ministry had become a job and after Meredith and I's discussion we began to see our young inhibitions and aspirations were lost in the fog of parent permission slips, staff meetings, and reaching numbers.
Maybe that is what this past eleven months has been about for us. It is a starting over. A chance to redo. An opportunity to be rejuvenated and refreshed and begin anew with excitement, love, and thrills of seeing students come to know Jesus.
We both made a commitment that day. No longer would we ever do ministry for ministry's sake. Rather, we would live life hopelessly reckless to bringing students to Jesus. Future ministry of ours - watch out - this youth pastor is steppin' aside and letting God do His work.