Dear Youth Leader,
As you read this letter perhaps it's 9:25pm on a Wednesday night. The last teenager and adult volunteer have left the building and you're stuck folding the metal chairs and doing your best to clean the youth room so the church custodian doesn't get mad at you…again.
To add insult to spilt Coke, tonight may have been one of "those" nights for you. Your jokes fell flat and that group of arrogant churchy kids (who always sit in the back left corner) were mocking you with whispers from their giggling Pharisee paradise. The preacher's kid glared at you, daring you to call out daddy's dearest in public. You took his dare and was met with rolling eyes and heavy sighs by him and his sarcastic posse.
Down deep inside you may be wondering if you're making a difference at all. You're scrolling through your weekly to do list and it may seem more like meetings than mission. You're tired of the stress youth ministry triggers at home, at church and, most of all, down deep inside your own heart.
You may be thinking about giving up.
You may be wondering if it's worth the small paychecks and big headaches.
You may be considering hanging up your paintball gun and canceling your subscription to Group Magazine.
It is worth it.
It's worth every late night text from every frantic teen girl who just got dumped. It's worth every angry phone call from a can't-understand-why-you-let-those-kids-in-youth-group parent.
Think about Jenna who put her trust in Jesus last summer at camp. She was a cutter and suicidal. But your talk on Friday night made her run to the front of the auditorium and collapse in your arms sobbing. But she wasn't really running to you. She was running to Jesus and he was hugging her through you.
And you can't forget about Jake, the tough kid who Jeremy brought out to youth group last month. Not only did he believe in Jesus as a result of Jake sharing the gospel with him, but now he's leading the charge for evangelism at Jefferson High School. And it all started when you taught Jeremy to share his faith and then challenged him to do it.
Degree by degree your teens are changing. Every talk you give, every mission trip you coordinate and every prayer you utter are nudging most of your teens closer to Jesus in often imperceptible but deeply undeniable ways.
Don't let the left corner kids discourage you. Don't let that nemesis elder dissuade you. Don't let the politics of puberty rob you of your calling.
Keep praying, teaching and discipling. Keep energizing to evangelize. Keep loving teens relentlessly with the love of Jesus.
And one day, when you collapse in his arms after a job well done, you'll hear "Well done" whispered in your ear. In a flash he'll show you the kingdom impact you made in the form of changed lives and saved souls. He'll show you how he used all the youth ministry trials you endured to make you more dependent on him and, as a result, more effective in your ministry. He'll show you the full extent of your investment.
That will be the real payday. That will be the ultimate pay off. On that day you'll realize in full that it was all worth it.
So, until that day, stand your post and embrace your calling.
You are a youth leader.