The world I had known had imploded. Uncertainty about my future, as well as my faith, abounded.
Many youth ministry workers have reached this point: a place in the spiritual desert, consumed by the mental and physical exhaustion as well as the spiritual depletion we said we would avoid. For me, it had all gone so wrong so quickly. But after a period of reflection, it was obvious that this day would eventually come. The birth of my youth-ministry calling brought an urgency to spread the love of Jesus to every kid I met. Our lessons were catchy, and we had outreach events that were sure to draw the attention of teens in our area. With each passing year, the number of events increased, as did my duties at the church. Before long, we had an event planned almost every weekend; I was helping to organize adult activities, and I was assisting with a Greek class at the church. I spent most every day running, my schedule over-filled. Before long, the harsh reality stared me in the face. It was all over.
The busy days were now replaced by a haunting silence and an abundance of time to reflect. As I retraced it all, pondering where my life was going, I searched for the source of all the trouble I had experienced. I had made many mistakes that would lead to my demise as a youth minister. I began to pray, recognizing that God was the only One who would have the answers I needed.
In that moment, my main mistake became clear. I had abandoned God in my life. I got caught up in doing the Christian thing and had forsaken simply being a Christian. My prayer life had become nearly nonexistent, with prayers only slipped in between all I believed I needed to accomplish.
I was running so hard trying the complete the “necessities,” I simply didn’t have time for God. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God” (NIV). After reading that, it became so clear to me why I was in that position. I never slowed down to see God, to hear what God had to say to me, or even to look to God for the guidance I had needed so desperately.
Being, Not Just Doing
As youth pastors today, the temptation is always there to plan that next big event. The world of the youth worker continues to be one of increased expectations from the church as a whole, with the demands growing larger by the day. It is so easy to neglect our own spiritual lives in the drive to make other people happy, or to just keep the congregation content. But it will only lead to disaster.
We must remember that our spiritual lives are the starting points of our ministries. If our spiritual lives are a wreck, we will struggle to lead others to Jesus. If we are not listening to the voice of God, how can we tell them what He wants them to hear? If we start with being a Christian first, the actions and work of a Christian will follow.
God lifted me when I had fallen and taught me to stop and recognize that He is the One who is working through me. I need to take a breath, be still a few moments each day and hear His voice. He restored my relationship with Him, when I returned to seeking Him first.
Andy Clapp has served as a youth minister for seven years. He currently is the youth pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Liberty, North Carolina