The last couple days have been a struggle to get everyone ready and out the door in the morning. I have three boys and I have “Dad duty” every morning to get us all ready for the day and dropped off at school/daycare.
I am not complaining at all, in fact I value the time I have with my boys in the morning, especially because of the evenings I am gone with church stuff. The biggest challenge has been with our youngest who just turned 4, and this morning I realized at least one of the reasons why.
I am very (very, very, very) happy to be done with the baby stage. No more five point car seats, no more feeding schedules, no more diapers, no more…(I could go on but if you have a baby I don’t want to depress you too much). When I see families with babies or toddlers it only reminds me how glad I am to be done with that phase of our life.
This morning as Cameron struggled with his attitude (and so did I) I realized that my expectations of him were not realistic. I am so glad for our boys to have some independence I forget what is appropriate for a four year old. His older brothers can do it, so he should be able to as well…but I easily forget that they are two and four years older than him.
For him to learn and mature I need to have realistic expectations and take the time to help and teach him. Otherwise we will both be extremely frustrated, which is not good for either one of us. But it isn’t just about me, I have to teach and he has to learn and try.
What is true in the physical world is often times true in the Spiritual world.
Hebrews 5:11-14 (NIV) We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Here we see some lazy Christians being called out on their lack of growth. As a spiritual leader I need to have realistic expectations for those I am teaching and discipling, and they need to learn, try, and actually grow.
Take a moment and think about how many students in your sphere of influence need milk and now many need solid food. Is your teaching and your expectations appropriate? If they aren’t growing what needs to change? Is it you? Is it them? Most likely it is a combination of both.
I realize for me with my own kids and for the teenagers God has put in my life it is a combination of both. How about for you?
I hope you have had one of these weeks; a week with both an extreme failure and an extreme victory; then sprinkled with a little bit of everything in between. As I reflect back over this week I can’t help but ask myself why I am in the position I am in. What is my motivation, what is my goal, and how do I define for myself what success is. Am I working to be the ‘perfect youth worker’; or for something else?
The problem with the idea of ‘the perfect youth worker’ is this, there is no such thing! That’s the problem, it’s just an idea, and everyone has their own opinion of what the perfect youth worker is. Your senior pastor has their idea, each church lay leader has their idea, parents have another idea, each student could offer their opinion, and even the church janitor would give another view. As I think about all these different expectations and the effort and time it would take to even come close to meeting half of them, I am tempted to start writing my resignation letter instead of this article. And I haven’t even started to look at the expectations I have put on myself.
Wow, I am exhausted just writing about it, not to mention trying to live up to it. I realize though how easy it is to fall into this thinking. Just today in a matter of hours I went from dealing with parents crying because their student has entered quickly into the ‘I am 18 and ruining my life as fast as I can’ phase and asking me to fix it. To a few hours later sitting in Starbucks with a leadership student and helping them lead a friend to Christ they have been praying for for years. Youth ministry can be a crazy roller coaster ride of ups and downs. And if my goal is to hit my expectation, or someone else’s expectation of the perfect youth pastor, I want off of this ride sooner than later.
But, as I look at the greatest commandments and the great commission, I can see God’s expectation of what success is. Success for me is being faithful to the call God has placed on my life. I can not make every student in our youth group make the right decision every time, I can not make someone open their life to God, I can not do any of these things. I can not claim the failure as mine, and I can not claim the victory as mine either. Only God can give someone salvation, only the student can make the decision for their life. As a youth worker, my job is to be a faithful servant of God, follow His leading, and then let Him work.
2 Timothy 4:2 – 5 (NIV) 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
No matter how much the expectations of me change; God’s word remains constant. As long as I stay faithful to God, His purposes, and His calling on my life, I know I can meet His expectation of faithful servant, which is much easier to accomplish than perfect youth pastor!