The last post that I wrote on here was about being real. And then I disappeared for a while. I wish that I could say that I just got caught up in daily life and didn’t have time to write anything. I wish that I could say I was so immersed in book contracts that I didn’t have any brain space left for the blog.
But that just isn’t true.
The truth is that I have stayed silent because I was too afraid to be real.
I know, right? Come on, Jane.
So today I am breaking my silence.
Why? Because I almost had a meltdown in the grocery store.
Yes. You read that right. I almost had a meltdown. Not the kidlets. Me.
I was standing next to a display of Oreos (Mega Stuff. I’ll get back to you on those.) and looking at a display of peaches when I couldn’t take it any longer. My eyes started to tear up and I knew I was going to lose it.
David and the kidlets were with me, so I just turned to him and suggested going next door to get some lunch and then trying the store again once I had eaten and had a chance to just breathe for a bit.
He agreed immediately. He is a very smart man.
Lunch was delicious, and take-two on the store was much easier. We now have the peaches and cookies in the house, so dessert tonight is going to be amazing.
But the meltdown? It was avoided today, but it is still a very real threat.
What many of you don’t know is that my husband David is looking for a job in ministry, and he has been searching for over three years now.
We have served in different areas during this time and he is looking for other work as well, but his heart longs to be in full time ministry. As does mine.
We read blog posts, articles, and books about how the youth are lost and hurting. We see the statistics about young people choosing to walk away from their faith once they leave home. We see families breaking down and kids caught in the middle, forced to grow up way too soon. And our hearts ache.
But getting a job in youth ministry is not easy. Do you know the most common question that David gets?
“You’ve been in youth ministry for 16 years. Why don’t you want to move up?”
Move up? Really? Is there really a higher calling than to walk alongside youth as they learn to live and love like Jesus? Is there a greater honor than to be allowed to live life with teens and see their lives changed by the Holy Spirit?
He has also gotten this one a lot:
“You’re particularly passionate about middle school ministry. Why? They’re so difficult. So complicated. So… annoying. We want to get someone with little to no experience for that age group. It will be a good training ground for them, and we won’t have to pay that much. You are just too experienced to do only middle school. Plus, you should be ready to move up by now.”
Okay. Again, move up? And also, you want to take someone with absolutely no experience and put him into the middle of one of the most difficult groups out there?
Let me tell you something about these “annoying” middle school students.
They’re a mess. They’re hormonal. They’re confused. They’re over the top, hormonal, restless, hormonal, petulant, and hormonal. But they’re real. And they’re passionate. And they see through you like no one else.
They know if you love them, and they know if you are just putting up with them.
If when you have these middle school students in your midst you just put up with them, you’ll lose them. They won’t listen to you. They won’t trust you. They’ll just bide their time, waiting to move up, just like you are.
But if they know you love them, they’ll listen to you. They’ll talk to you. As they get older the hormones will level out, the brain connections will come together, and the relationship will deepen. They’ll mess up – but they will know you love them enough to walk through the mess with them and help them see Jesus. And then they’ll become adults who struggle and mess up. But they will know that you still love them enough to walk through the mess with them and help them see Jesus.
And then one day you’ll get a call from one of them. They’ll be in the middle of serving in a youth ministry, asking for how they can help the young middle schoolers in their midst see Jesus. And that is a great day.
How do I know this? Because we’ve lived it.
We’ve lived with the squeaky, giggly, uncontrolled voices of the boys. We’ve lived with the sobbing girls. We’ve lived with the out of control, smelly, obnoxious van rides. We’ve lived with the mumbled confessions, the tough conversations, and the awkward silences. We’ve lived with the same questions being asked over and over again. We’ve experienced the unbelievable joy of watching kids grow into adults who are serving in ministry. We’ve also experienced the unbelievable heartbreak of watching kids choose to walk away from their faith and embrace the teachings of the world. But despite everything, we long to live it again.
Is there a crisis in youth ministry today? Absolutely. But perhaps the way to address this crisis isn’t to plan more programs, hold more conferences, or write more blog posts. (Yes, I get the irony here.)
Perhaps the way to address this is to take youth ministry seriously. To seek out the most experienced youth leaders to work with the most difficult ages. To see the job of youth pastor as a true honor and calling, not simply a stepping stone to bigger and better things. To realize that youth don’t need to be entertained – they need to be loved, and they need to be told the Truth.
I trust that one day David and I will have the chance to serve in full time ministry again. I cling to Psalm 71:15-18 which says:
“My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—though I know not how to relate them all. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.”
But until then, we wait. We trust the Lord and His ways. And as Mike Yaconneli once instructed us, we “do what we can do”.
And yes, sometimes I cry in the grocery store. Because waiting is hard.
See you soon.