Because honestly, student ministry, like any part of the Christian life, has its trials and struggles. But I feel that sometimes we create these trials and struggles ourselves by making our jobs too difficult. Granted, sometimes this comes from outside pressures and expectations that we have to deal with, but the reality remains the same. The work we do to reach students for Christ should not be that difficult. Now before you get too excited I want you to know that I do not have some magical formula that will cause middle school boys to sit still, high school girls to stop being catty, and students to magically stop running from God. But what I do offer is something that I believe can decrease your stress level in ministry and the tension at home you may often face, and I believe in turn increase the effectiveness of your ministry.
This light bulb moment for me, that job should not be so hard, came from studying the words of Jesus. In Matthew 22:34-40 Jesus is again being attacked by the teachers of the law. I love these little moments of Biblical "you just got served" as Jesus coolly and calmly puts the pharisees and Sadducees back in their place, all without sinning. It's amazing. But this particular moment is my favorite. When asked what the greatest commandment in the law is, Jesus tells them that it is to love God with all your mind soul and strength and that the second, to love your neighbor as yourself, is just as important. He then makes an interesting statement that all the law and all the prophets hang on those two things. As I wrestled with this it finally hit me that everything ever taught or said in scripture boils down to two things, loving God and loving people. Therefore, that is what my life boils down to, loving God and loving people.
This simplified things so much for me. I realized that all Jesus was asking of me was to live a life that is fully devoted to honoring Him and loving those around me. Nowhere does it say that I have to have an event every weekend. Nowhere does it say that I have to have a meeting planned at least three nights a week. I just have to honor God and and love those around me. Now here's where this began to free me so that youth ministry did not become a burden.
I realized that one of the best things I can do as a minister is set an example for my students, i.e. living a life that loves God. And I can do this by including them in my daily activities as we do life together. I can also do this as I invest in leaders and set an example for them so that they can also set an example for my students and do ministry. Do you see how freeing this is. Ministry does not have to happen at a planned function with lots of investment of time or money and it does not have to be done all on your own.
The next thing freed me up even more. You see I believe Jesus said for us love our neighbor not just because that will help us avoid all kinds of sin, but also because that is what our neighbor needs. At the end of the day all we want is to be loved and accepted and part of community. And when we offer that to others they will not be able to help but want to break down their barriers and experience life change in Jesus. Candy and giveaways are great, but at the end of the day students just want to be loved and accepted and belong. When I realized this my ministry began to simplify and the impact I and my leaders were making multiplied.
Again, my daily life has not become easy, that is not what the point of all of this has been. But I have begun to remove the stress and difficulties I was placing on myself by trying to live out this picture of what I thought ministry had to be instead of living out the picture that Jesus painted for us in scripture of what ministry actually is.