What an Iranian Youth Minister Taught Me About Youth Ministry

I recently returned from a trip to the Middle East, where I had the opportunity to talk with a young Iranian lady named Fara*.  Fara is a small, shy and warm woman with a genuine smile.   She had recently been given the role of youth pastor for her house-church network inside Iran.

Fara asked to talk with me because she heard that I had been a youth pastor in America, and she felt insecure in her new role.

Because of the risk of imprisonment for her faith and work with the youth, you or I might be worried about the constant threat of persecution.  In reality, Fara’s fears were surprisingly similar to those I’ve heard voiced by many youth pastors in the U.S.

Fara was worried about programming and what to teach. She had fears about being insufficient to disciple youth.  She was concerned about how to connect with youth and relate to parents.

It struck me hard at the time – even as it strikes me now – how similar my fears as a youth minister were to Fara’s, despite being from very different cultures and ministry contexts.

For many of you, it’s that time of year when youth go back to school, and the youth group calendar returns to its normal rhythm.  As the summer season of mission trips and pool parties ends, youth ministers across the country begin to look to programming for the fall.  Many of us begin to feel overwhelmed.

As you start the year, I want to encourage you with what I told Fara: What God calls us to He will equip us for, and He doesn’t ask us to do it on our own.  

I directed her to the verse that sustained me through years of youth ministry: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).   Our hope in ministry is that the Lord has been at work, is even now at work, and will continue to be at work in the lives of the youth.  

As a Persian-speaking Iranian, Fara doesn’t have flashy curriculum options – but she does have the Scriptures.  

She may not feel qualified for ministry – but she has been called and she does have the Holy Spirit.  

Her programming options are extremely limited inside Iran – but she does have the fellowship of other Christians.  

Because she has God and the means of grace, she has everything she needs.  And so do you and I.

Fara teaches us that what is really important for ministry is available to us all: the Gospel of Jesus Christ, given to us in the Scriptures, sealed in the sacraments, testified to by the Spirit, experienced in the fellowship of the church and lived out in the places we live.

Please pray for Fara and the many other Iranian Christians faithfully serving our Lord in the Iran region, despite persecution.  God is powerfully at work in that part of the world.  Daily Iranians are coming to Christ, so be encouraged.

To learn more how to pray for Iran and the Iranian people, please visit www.Iran30.org.

*Fara is not her real name.  It has been changed for her safety.

Mark Howard was a youth pastor for five years before joining Elam Ministries, an organization that seeks to strengthen and expand the church in Iran and surrounding areas. Through Elam, he's had the opportunity to work with Iranian youth as well as talk with American churches about God's work in Iran. Mark has his M.A. in Theological Studies from Wheaton College Graduate School and serves on Rooted's steering committee.

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