When my rowboat finally hit land, I loved what I saw. Palm trees, coconuts, crystal-clear water…perfection. Everything was mine. I was in charge. I’d made it. For years, I’d wandered at sea, but this paradise quickly erased the pains of the journey. I found shelter, gathered food, and swam. It was incredible…for a while.
Let me back up. For a long time, I cared about the whole church. I was “all in,” wearing every hat on the giant ship. Being an all-around crew member rather than just the activities director was exhausting. I performed multiple tasks on every deck. More than once, I wanted to toss a few people overboard.
One day, I snuck away on a little rowboat to find dry land. I was free to do my own thing—to build the youth ministry and nothing else. It was oddly exhilarating to work with teenagers, not caring if they ended up at my church or not. (After all, if the church weren’t paying me, I probably wouldn’t even go there.)
If you’ve ever been to Youth Ministry Island, you know it quickly loses its luster. The place pulls an awful bait-and-switch, and here’s what remains:
• Loneliness—The excitement upon arrival is intoxicating, yet over time you feel isolated. While fighting the elements, you realize survival would be more possible if you were part of a crew.
• Invisibility—Being off the radar seems like a win initially. Then you notice you’re left out of celebrations. You realize your freedom has come at the expense of team. Longevity, after all, is birthed from being part of a much greater whole.
• Martyrdom—To top it off, you feel like a victim. “I’m the one who should be getting credit,” you think. “Everyone else is out to get me.” Paranoia wins because you’re alone and invisible.
As fall approaches, what boat will you be on? If you’re alone, invisible, or playing the martyr, you may have set sail for Youth Ministry Island. Take these steps now to get back aboard the big ship:
• Care about the whole church and speak highly of it.
• Support the senior pastor and leadership.
• Offer to assist with “out of your area” opportunities.
• Help design a church that welcomes back graduating students.
Good youth ministry isn’t just about caring for teenagers. Find passion for everything God is doing so you don’t get stranded on Youth Ministry Island.
Youth Ministry Island by Josh Griffin originally appeared in the July/August issue of Group Magazine where he is a regular contributor for his “In the Trenches” column.