While I’m on the subject of “Youth Ministry Mind Games,” this one is a standout and deserves extra attention. I still remember the conversation with a desperate youth leader from Australia and while some conversations easily blur together, the agony in this sincere youth leader’s words remain clearly etched on my mind.
“Jeanne,” he said. “I need a favor from you.”
“Sure,” I responded almost mindlessly. “What can I do for you?”
The youth leader paused for a second or so and then blurted out, “Could you talk me out of quitting youth ministry?”
The man’s candor caught me a little off guard. Lowering my voice, I answered, “Tell me your story. What’s going on?”
The story that emerged was all too typical. This sincere leader had recently experienced having several key kids in his youth group “go south spiritually.” But as his story began to unravel, it was clear that one student had been particularly painful to him.
“I gave this kid everything I had to give,” he quietly said to me. “We kept him at our home for awhile, I spent countless hours with him, and he gave me encouragement that I was really accomplishing something.” The man’s voice broke slightly. He cleared his throat, trying to mask the pain. “But then almost out of no where, the teenager began backing away from me and the other kids in the youth group. He started hanging out with his old friends, and just yesterday I found out that he was selling drugs again and talking about what a joke his Christian experience had been.”
I allowed the silence to linger for a minute. When our eyes met again, he unashamedly reached to wipe a few tears from his face. “What do you do when a teenager you really care about goes south spiritually? I mean, how do you keep the feelings of worthlessness and futility from eventually causing you to cash it all in?”
Let me highlight a few of the thoughts I shared with him that day. Maybe it will help you when you experience some of the same feelings. Trust me, my friend, stay in youth ministry long enough and you will.