There are a lot of conversations out there amongst youth leaders regarding longevity. One in particular that has bubbled up is: “Should I stay the course or search for a different context?” Whether you’re just getting started in youth ministry or you’re a “lifer,” the wrestling on this one is inevitable. Here are some thoughts that have helped me in the midst of a few of my transitions:
For me, it’s not simply just a political or strategic question. It’s an issue of faithfulness. I’ve been dubbed by some of my closest friends and ministry partners as being “faithful to a fault.” Though that may sound honorable, it really is rooted in my broken neediness for approval. If my need for the approval of people outweighed my faithfulness to God’s call, to either stay or to search would be a bad move. So I’ve got to keep that in check.
So here’s the litmus test, in order of importance:
1. Have I been faithful to God?
2. Have I been faithful to the people He has given to me?
3. Have I been faithful to the people He has given me to?
First Order of Business
Faithfulness to God is primary. If my primary covenant relationship is with the Father, it is that relationship that takes precedence. It is from Him that I receive approval. It’s there that I establish integrity. It is from there that I draw my identity.
My heart has got to be aligned with the Father’s. If my motivation to search for another context to do ministry is driven by any kind of selfish desire, I’ve already moved outside of covenant.
I think of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, grieved to the point of death, and the disciples right there falling asleep. He still focuses on the will of the Father. There is nothing opportunistic or lucrative that he moves toward, nor is there any frustration or battle that he is running from. He stayed the course to the cross, and for that, I am eternally grateful!
In contrast, I think of the rich young ruler who found it hard to change the course of his life because of all that he had. Wealth is what he has gone down in history as holding on to tighter than the promise of eternal life. May it never be that gainful employment would override my allegiance to God!