Wednesday, July 1, 2009
The dregs...the dregs...
OK, so I've had a week that has been awe-inspiring, yet emotionally taxing. A little insight as to where I've been the past week. Saturday, June 20th, the youth and I went on a short term mission trip to Charleston, WV...not going to lie...it was probably the best mission trip that I've ever been on. Had a nice chat with four Ohio Highway Patrolmen on the way out, got it all cleared up, and had a phenomenal week. We went with an organization called YouthWorks. Basically, groups from all over the country come together at one location and split up and work with various charity organizations, boys and girls clubs, whatever. We spend the week working with people or doing any number of jobs. The Charleston site this year was predominantly relational ministry; there weren't many physical labor things to do. Both of the groups that my youth worked with were different Boys and Girls clubs. So the week progressed, the kids built relationships with these kids, then we left and drove all the way back to MN. Like I've said, the trip was great, the kids invested themselves into these kids and the community, built relationships with other youth that we were working with, and at the end of the week we had a foot washing ceremony that was a primo time to get in some awesome prayer with my youth. Tears were streaming everywhere, Kleenex could have made a killing that day.
So I've back in my office on Tuesday, racing to finalize things for our monthly community youth gathering that's tonight. I come to work today, get a phone call from a friend that had a moment of weakness last night. Got another phone call from a youth that just graduated and wants to sit and talk because she didn't get accepted into the Guards. Talked with a friend about some massive life events that effect him and another mutual friend. All of this to say...it's been a rough couple days back! But here's my point. I often wonder why youth pastors generally burn out after 12-18 months. I wonder if it's just they have overloaded schedules, or if they can't handle the expectations from the church/parents/youth, or if they are just using it as a fun temporary job before they move on to something else. But I think a large part of why people burn out of youth ministry (and ministry as a whole) is because they do not know how/want to deal with the crap that comes with the job. I'm not talking about the low pay, high expectations, lack of support, or terrible volunteers. What I'm talking about is the crap that comes with having to be open, honest, and present to those who need you to be. Now I stated before that the trip was great, and it was, but it was very emotionally exhausting being that vulnerable with the youth. And then to return and be an open ear to those needing to talk. It's a big deal, and emotionally taxing putting yourself out there for so many people...but how else can we do it? If we are not emotionally vulnerable to those that we are to minister to, we can only help them confront surface issues...like not returning the extra change that the cashier gave us, or feeling guilty we didn't stop the kid that stole a candy bar from Wal Mart. What about the deeper issues, the ones that if left to fester will systematically destroy a person? I'm talking about the deep dark secrets we ALL hide in order to save face, but ultimately are growing roots deep inside leaving nothing but a gaping hole for a heart and an overtly cold shoulder.
I once told Corrine shortly after I started working at the church that, "I finally felt like a pastor today. Someone came in and I had to help them through some big things..." I said it with a sense of pride...and I've regretted it ever since. How dare I find happiness in someone else's sorrow! I have kept a close check on these things ever since. And I can tell you, the WORST part about youth ministry is the crap that you have to help people through. Don't read that as me complaining about helping people, I'm not. What I'm saying is that I hate the stuff people go through, I hate people suffering, I hate the ambiguity that the future brings and that most things are not reconciled, and I HATE that repentance is oftentimes a life long process.
People may say, "All you have to offer is God's love." But I say shame on you! If all you're offering is God's love, how are the people that don't know God supposed to think of love? As distant? Or worse, absent? Is found in a book? Cannot be offered by people? Most times the only way people can even start to grasp the concept of love is by being loved first by someone else. A lot of times the only doorway to God's love is through us. We are vessels of God's love, not a handy pamphlet explaining God's love. If we keep our hearts closed to others, how are we supposed to open them to God?