I often remind myself that 95% of being a good youth leader is being a good Christian. As leaders, we all work hard to take our students to a youth convention, youth retreat, or camp. Then as our van or bus is pulling off the parking lot to head home, we start challenging them to fight to hang onto the spiritual growth they experienced the past days!

 

Middle School Retreat 3-12-16_2But what about us as leaders? How do we hold on to the renewed spark of passion, heart, and spiritual motivation we ourselves received? Let me process some of the things I’ve told myself through the years:

1)  Internally, don’t allow yourself to get deeply discouraged if the students seem to have “leaks” in their spiritual momentum containers! That’s just a normal part of being a teenager. The Holy Spirit will use those camp moments and memories in countless ways until your students skid into Heaven. So know that they are not in vain like the Enemy will try to mentally suggest to you.

Determine not to let the Enemy rob you of your joy just because three weeks after the convention, one of your students goes off the deep end. That just means you have great job security!

2)  After key services, consider journaling your own personal thoughts to the Lord. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked back on old journal notes and received a much-needed shot of spiritual encouragement in my own personal life. Do I hear some of you saying that you’re not a journaling type of person? Hey, make it easy. Just create a private folder on your tablet or computer (that you give a disguised name). Then enjoy pounding out your thoughts and feelings, without any need to edit yourself. It’s pretty remarkable.

3)  Remember that events will always get old, but ministering to people won’t. So make sure that you intentionally give yourself away to a few different students when you make a trip. How does that impact you personally? Easy. We all know the biblical principle of reaping what we sow. But after you’ve done a few conventions or camps, it’s easy for them to start to blur together. Refuse to let that happen by strategically investing deeply into a couple of your students during the trip. They’ll never forget the moments you had together…and you’ll be reminded why you started in youth ministry in the first place.

4)  Don’t join the ranks of the “professional leaders” at a youth convention who tell their students to worship, but don’t worship much themselves, and who tell their students to respond to closing altar calls, but don’t pray much at the conclusion of service themselves. I can’t tell you how many times after a key service I’ve tucked away in a corner to have some personal words with the Lord myself. You can’t keep giving anointed altar calls if you rarely answer any yourself.

So maybe your approach to a convention or camp could be a little different this year. As for me, I’m determined not to slide into Heaven one day with an enlarged youth ministry, but a shrunken heart. When I started in youth ministry lots of years ago, I naively didn’t realize that fanning my own heart after the Lord would be ground zero for the Enemy’s target practice. But now I no longer look at youth convention and camp moments as just for the kids. Truth be told, I need those turning point moments for myself. So before you board the bus, remind Jesus that you could use a fresh touch from Him—not just the “12 tribes” you’re bringing along with you.