With only 5-minutes to go before the start of the program, not one of my youth ministry volunteers were anywhere to be seen. So of course I did what any intelligent youth worker would do in this complex situation…I panicked! My mind raced with about a million thoughts at that moment: “what am I going to do?”, “how am I possibly going to be able to pull this off?”, “Should I leave too? I mean, if I slip out of the room, no one will even know that I was here!”. What happened next was one of the most stressful and cray moments in my youth ministry career up until that point. It was at that moment that I realized clearly what I would have to do…EVERYTHING! It was as if in that moment I had become the poster boy for the slogan “do it yourself!” I had to do it all. And when I say that I “did it all”, I literally mean that I did it ALL! I led worship, ran the games, gave the announcements, did the skits, taught the message, facilitated the small groups and cleaned up when everything was all done. There is only one thought that comes to mind when I think back on that fateful night at youth group: now I know exactly what hell must feel like!
After all of the students had gone home and the youth room was put back in order (and by “put back in order” I mean “after I peeled leftover pizza off of the ground”), I collapsed onto the couch in my office and exclaimed to God: “that’s it…I give up! You’ve got the wrong guy! I didn’t sign up for this. You don’t need a youth pastor to do this job, you need Superman!” It was in that moment that I had experienced my very first brush with one of the biggest youth ministry mistakes that we can make as youth workers: DOING YOUTH MINISTRY ALONE!
Doing youth ministry alone lends itself to all kinds of problems, the first of which is rapid burnout! We might be able to fool ourselves into thinking that we can do it all, that we can take on everything that comes our way, but the truth is that we are human, we have weaknesses and we can grow tired and drained when we attempt to do TOO MUCH. I can’t tell you how many friends I know that are no longer working in youth ministry because they simply got too burned out from trying to accomplish everything that needed to get done on their own steam. In fact out of five close friends of mine, all of whom started out in youth ministry around the same time as me, only two of us are still working as youth pastors! The rest of them have taken on far less stressful jobs like professors, insurance salesmen, lawyers and the like (this is the part where you laugh at my super funny joke).
If you want to get to know other youth workers just like you or chat about your youth ministry, join us Thursday’s at 12PM (PST) for the YOUTH MINISTRY HANGOUT! Also check out episode #1 of the YOUTH MINISTRY HANGOUT for more thoughts on connecting with volunteers and building a youth ministry team.