Sunday, October 16, 2011

busted for young life

Last week I was visiting some family and friends in Virginia (shout out). Candace took me to her Young Life leader meeting on Friday night and during that time her area staff person said this: "There are only two reasons why anyone should be a Young Life leader."

Uh oh, I thought. I'm going to be so busted.

Most of the time I feel like I am a pretty bad leader. Next to planning and leader meetings and showing up to things we plan, I give it almost no time (read: contact work). High school girls scare the crap out of me and I pretty much think the boys are butt heads. I meet a kid one week and the next week I either don't recognize her face or remember her name and I think, man I am such a jerk.  Most of the time I'm talking with a high school kid I feel like I say all the wrong things and that I can't think of enough things to say or questions to ask so the proverbial crickets start chirping. I'm not naturally enthusiastic or extroverted and I'm really only funny on accident.

So, yeah, when this fit-the-bill Young Life staff person said there were only two reasons a person should be a Young Life leader, I thought I was going to have to turn myself in and hand over my volunteer leader resignation.

"Number one," he said, "you believe in the Mission."

Oh, I do. I really do.

I definitely believe in the mission of introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith. It's about this:
Praying for young people.
Going where kids are.
Building personal relationships with them.
Earning the right to be heard.
Providing experiences that are fun, adventurous and life-changing.
Sharing our lives and the Good News of Jesus with them.
Inviting them to personally respond to this Good News.
Loving them regardless of their response.
Nurturing kids so they might grow in their love for Christ and the knowledge of God's Word and become people who can share their faith with others.
Helping young people develop the skills, assets and attitudes to reach their full God-given potential.
Encouraging kids to live connected to the Body of Christ by being an active member of a local church.
Working with a team of like-minded individuals (volunteer leaders, committee members, donors and staff).

The mission of Young Life more closely resembles the mission of Jesus than any other I have ever experienced. It's about being a friend of sinners and inviting them to join you in the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven.

"Number two," he said, "You feel called."

Oh, I do feel called.

Being called by God is a funny, almost inexplicable thing. I imagine it probably looks different for everybody, but I also imagine that it is unmistakable for everybody. Maybe some people hear an audible voice of God, but that's never happened to me or a lot of people I know. The only way I can think to describe it is compulsion. Being internally compelled, with or without reason. The utter feeling that if I were to neglect do something, it would be a betrayal. All this, with the all-important catch that whatever it is must not contradict the Word of God, seems to be the best way I can think to describe a calling. And that's how I currently feel about being a Young Life leader.

If I try to strictly reason with myself about it, there is no way I should be a leader. I don't really have the time or want on most days to do the work involved. I'm not super cool and I feel like a failure a lot. I am much more gifted to be on Property staff (which I am) or on Committee because I prefer to be behind-the-scenes support. But every time I think it might worthwhile to step down from this role, I think that's impossible. I can't. That would be a betrayal. The fact of the matter is that I feel a responsibility to do this, at least for now. I believe that God wants Young Life to be here in the valley and I feel that to not do this would be to sacrifice the gift because I have been trained, I have experience and because God historically prefers to use people who are not super cool and who seem to be failures.

And then there are the kids.

Yes, in theory I believe in supporting high school kids. But once I meet them and know them by name I am smitten. They scare me like crazy but that's only because I want to be their friend and yet feel so unworthy. I see some of the crap they go through and I want them to know it will be alright and that they are loved. I walk away from some conversations with them and feel like the biggest dork, but then the next week they come up to me with a big smile and a hug and I am shocked and awed. That feels like a God thing.

So last week I did find myself busted, but in a different way than I thought I would be. I expected to be exposed (at least to myself) for being a fraud of a Young Life leader but found myself instead confident that this is the right thing for me, at least here and now. Busted were my original notions of what a Young Life leader should be.


  1. You nailed it on the head with so many thoughts I have had about youth ministry:) Thanks for the great insight and words of encouragement.

  2. love your insights- you've put into words many things i never could. like feeling "called." and how it seems every time God calls someone to do something, they usually are, or at least feel, incapable of the work set before them. i feel this way ALL the time with jail ministry. thanks for sharing ash. i love that you're doing this.