Confessions of a Struggling Youth Minister: I Think I Failed….

I think messed up. I think I failed. I don’t know what I am doing.

These are some thoughts that have frequently come up throughout my time in youth ministry. Times when I feel that I’m unprepared, or didn’t put nearly enough time into my sermon prep. Service starts and I watch as the kids in the front row stand with blank stares, as if they are not even there. And I’m standing up front thinking, I think I failed.

I pray that God would show grace to these kids as they hear my message. But what they don’t know is that I’m praying for myself, just as much as I am praying for them.

In these moments, I feel helpless. But in these moments of helplessness the Spirit convicts, reminding me that I do not change people or their hearts.

As a young youth minister, I feel unequipped for this calling that God has given me. As a youth minister who is also still in seminary, I fear that what I may preach or teach may either be incorrect or totally over my kids’ heads. Many of these anxieties fall on my own shortcomings as a youth pastor (or what I believe to be shortcomings).

But in a moment of clarity, I remember it is not my own strength that saves, or teaches, or turns these youth into Godly men and women. It is through Christ and Christ alone. Paul writes that he will boast of his own weaknesses because in this boasting, the glory is given to Christ and through his own weakness he is made strong in Christ (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Our weakness, in the end, shows Christ as our true strength.

Paul also writes that all things work for the good of those who love God and for those whom He has called. And those He called, He will sanctify to the image of Christ: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:28-30). Now the pressure really seems to be off, as we are not the ones who save or sanctify or glorify. It is God’s work through Christ that saves, sanctifies, and glorifies. 

It is not by us – our skills or our talents or our power – but by Christ, the Creator of all things (Col. 1:16).

Now, as I continue to understand that the salvation of my kids are in the hands of the Creator, who sits on the throne and intercedes for us, I am encouraged and can’t help but find peace. This takes the pressure of failure off and places the responsibility of salvation into the hands of God. This reminder simply calls for me to run wholeheartedly towards Him. It doesn’t mean I can drop everything and take a lackadaisical approach to ministry, but that I should run fully, relying on God’s wisdom, knowing that through Him all things will work for the good of believers by His will.

Like Paul, we are called to do the work of the Gospel which has first saved us. And because of Christ’s Gospel, we are called to glorify God (Col. 1:24-26).

I know that I may be weak, but in Christ and through Christ all things come together and hold together. Christ gives life and holds life together. He is my strength. 

To learn more about gospel centered youth ministry, check out more articles and podcasts from Rooted’s youth ministry blog.

Ben is currently a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary studying for his Masters of Divinity with a concentration in Pastoral Counseling. He grew up in San Francisco and graduated from Patten University with a BA in Biblical Studies and has served in various capacities in church ranging from youth worship leader, Bible study teacher to youth minister. Ben enjoys trying new and interesting foods, learning and debating theology, and competing in different sports. Go Dubs!

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