There are many echoes in youth ministry…people who merely mimic the culture’s values rather than fight to be a distinct voice for biblical values. I’m not talking about legalism or nitpicking about music styles or body piercing here. I’m talking about being a prophetic voice in the lives of our young people…a voice that has something to say about character, conscience, and conviction. It requires no energy or backbone to simply echo what kids want to hear.
John the Baptist is a good example, he ignored the pressure to conform and lived out his calling instead. That’s why he’s immortalized in the New Testament as a “voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Some youth leaders settle for having a ministry of success, but truly successful youth leaders choose to have a ministry of significance.
This slow slide into echoland is like a youth leader traveling aboard a huge ocean liner. As she stands on the deck and looks out on the ocean, the ship appears to stand still. But if she dropped a large buoy from the ship’s deck, she’d quickly realize just how fast the ship was moving as the buoy disappeared on the horizon. In the same way, it’s easy for us to assume our values have remained unchanged when they’re really slipping away, unnoticed.
In our culture, the only absolute is that there are no absolutes. Our challenge is to remain a fixed point in a sea of mediocrity; a fixed point that’s committed to remaining a true voice to young people. After all, our Boss was once described as “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
I was the last one out of the building the night of the Legacy service, the clock read 4:30 a.m. as the last student said his final farewell. Exhausted, I trudged my way up the steps to the door one last time. I paused at the top and cast a fond glance back at the room that represented the epicenter of 13 years of youth ministry. Was I afraid to walk out? Not in the least.
You see, I began preparing for my exit the very day I made my entrance. Through the years, I tried to make sure that my desire to be needed was never greater than my desire to be exceeded. The youth ministry in Rockford flourished in my absence because it remained in the best possible hands.
The youth leader I left behind was Jeremy, one of my fresh stories from the early ’90s. After he committed his life to Christ, I was honored to coach him through a host of normal post-salvation issues. Months later, we wrestled through possible career choices. I helped train him for full-time ministry, then took part in his wedding. Years later I stood with him at the hospital as he held his firstborn son in his arms. And as I walked through the exit door one last time, Jeremy matured into a man who was no echo. Now, that’s a success marker.