Dear fellow youth worker,
I wanted to thank you so much for your faithful service to the church for all of these years. In fact, you are above average in your attempt to live for Jesus and to help others do the same. In fact, for many of you called to youth ministry, your call began in your own youth ministry experience and it was during your late high school and early college careers that you decided to serve Jesus by serving kids! For this, the church, your students, and Jesus is thankful!
You spent your late teens and early 20's being a perfect model of Jesus. You actually refrained from sleeping around and for many, turned this burning passion into a young marriage. You and your spouse got married young and then together set out to change the world. Because the age gap between you and your students was small at first, you gladly gave up alcohol as to not confuse your students or their parents. And for the last 5-10 years you have been cranking along just fine.
But for some of you, including myself, there is something rumbling under the surface. Is it discontentment? Is it bitterness? Is it jealously? For many youth workers who got into this gig at an early age, there is a close identification with the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. Our younger brothers and sisters went crazy! And now our peers are slowly coming back to church, back to faith and are being welcomed back with open arms.
As they return, I sense God coming to the back yard where you / we are pouting. We gladly gave up our 20's, gave up the parties, the girls / guys, the chaos, in order to live an exemplary life for our students and for Jesus. And for the older brother, and for me, and for maybe you, the question arises, "For what?"
Before you jump right back with the Christiany answer that all we have is God's and that we did the right thing and that God is pleased by our service, or God is displeased in our religiosity, or whatever knee jerk, bumper sticker you want to put over this feeling, I am asking that you would stop for a minute and reflect.
Do you need to grieve the coming of age rebellion that everyone experienced except for you?
Have you noticed your walk with Jesus to be dry because you have remained "healthy" in your life and lifestyle?
Are you starting to act out or dancing with the line when it comes to lifestyle choices now?
For many of my friends who have spent their 20's serving Jesus instead of body shots, there is a percolating rebellion that is rising to the surface. The real question is how are you going to deal with this rising rebellion? At this point you have to much on the line, you have a career, a spouse, even a kid or two. Some drunken outburst, a flirty relationship gone too far, the darker and hidden places you go online are not permitted for those of us who have chosen to do vocational ministry. And sometimes it just doesn't seem fair that we have to keep our entire lives in check every minute, of every hour, of every day, while the younger brother gets to go crazy and seemingly come and go as he pleases. And unless we deal with it, all that we have on the line will be lost.
In fact, I am sure many of you can name plenty of fallen friends who just could not keep it together, their percolating rebellion found some unhealthy escape and that was more then they, their spouse, and even the church could handle. I have too many friends that this story applies to. I have too much on the line in my own life, and my guess is that you do to.
So, I simply would like to end this letter by asking you to reflect on this question. "Have you, or do you need to grieve your 20's?"
Because this seems to be a hidden battle for many of my friends in vocational ministry, and because I too am in this boat, and I too want to be whole and healthy as I continue to serve the church and students, I would love to know your thoughts.
How are you acting out? How are you locking it down? How have you survived? How have you grieved? How have you responded to our gracious Father's invitation to come back inside to the party and celebrate that our younger brother has been found?