It’s finally sinking in. I have nothing to do on a Friday night.
You will need a bit of context to understand how heavy those statements are for me. I grew up — quite literally — in the confines of my local church’s youth ministry. I grew up physically, morphing from a lanky college student to my present bulky self while doing this ministry. Haha. Kinda tells you how we love to eat together, and eat A LOT. I grew up emotionally — or “matured” may be the proper term — by dealing with the numerous personalities and different types of people you meet doing youth ministry. I also learned to control and deal with my emotions properly (maturely?) during the hundreds of crisis situations we’ve gone through. Lastly, the youth ministry is where I grew up spiritually. I knew about Jesus Christ coming in, but this is where I saw His saving work in true form — redeeming broken lives and forgiving undeserving sinners like me.
I saw the Gospel at work as I served, led the band, ushered people to worship, discipled boys to become godly men, trained up clueless kids to step out in faith and become leaders, and until last week, as I dug deep into the Bible and unpacked passages for young hungry hearts. It was a sight to behold, the grace of God working tangibly to redeem hearts and change lives.
Going as far back as 2002, Fridays have always been ministry days for the church — whether it was our long-running cafe ministry or when it finally transitioned into a youth service somewhere back in 2009 — I was right there in the middle of it.
Since 2002 — except during summer vacation and Christmas breaks — I always had something to do on a Friday night. And tonight, there’s nothing for me and Kali to do. As in.
Well, not really nothing NOTHING, but you know what I mean. We’ve finally decided to let our young leaders take full control of the youth service — we’ve trained them to manage the ministry, we’ve trained them to lead the music and the worship, we’ve trained them even to dig into the Word and share it up front. Logically, there would have to be a time when we have to let them do it on their own. Now is that time.
I’ve been making myself ready for this time when I would have to intentionally leave them to do the ministry the way God was leading them to do it. It just feels weird tonight, you know, this being the first night that we’ve formally and officially done it.
The bebe, ever the God-provided natural balance to my life, said this morning that maybe God was asking me to look at this from a different perspective. She was spot on, as always.
If we’re training our youth and young professionals for ministry and the process of intentional disciple-making, we need to set a timeframe for when we will actually allow them to do it, first with supervision, until such time when they know how to do it by themselves. We can’t be worried about whether or not they will face the need to make critical calls in crisis situations — they will, and they should. And if we train them well, they should get themselves through it in one way or another (read: whether ‘safely’ or ‘crawling and wounded’ makes no difference). If they make mistakes, well, then they will learn what NOT to do.
Also, ministry contains the strongest temptation for leaders and pastors to make the whole thing about themselves, when they make themselves indispensable. Huge mistake here — first, it’s not about us, and secondly, no we are NOT indispensable. Let’s not teach the younger generation about our penchant for narcissism. If we believe in intentional discipleship, then let’s show them that at some point in time, they will have to do for the next generation what we did for them — that is, start discipling and training the generation which will replace them.
And maybe the Lord is showing me that there are other things to focus on. I mean, I have been in that position literally every Friday of my life for the past 13 or so years. There are new things to focus on, new challenges to face. (Try harder for that baby, perhaps?)
As much as necessary, I want to be available for these young leaders if and when they need my guidance. But I am not in control here — I never was, come to think of it. We wanted to pass on the vision for intentional disciple-making and Gospel-awareness to the next generation, and for better or for worse, we did that.
Now we have to be brave and trust that the God who was with us then — who never left us and has never forsaken us — is the same God who is with them.
May you do great and mighty things, O Lord, in this generation as you have done in ours.