Is it time to give up?
I’m tired. Generally, I am often guilty of burning the candle at both ends, and can end up a gibbering, shivering wreck. (There comes a point where coffee can no longer keep you going in a positive way and just leaves you jittery and tense.) But also, I’m tired of doing youth work.
Now I’m not tired of working with young people or my fellow youth leaders, but I’m tired of the grind that’s involved in youth work: the behind-the-scenes, getting to church early to set up, managing difficult behaviour… And I’ve decided that it’s time for me to step down.
I haven’t taken this decision lightly, and it’s not because of the negatives involved in church youth ministry, but because sometimes, it’s just time. Time to take a rest and then time to move onto something new, or even return to youth work. I’ve been doing youth work at my church for six years and during those six years, the youth work has gone through a number of difficult times.
I started volunteering during a stage of transition, carried on through two or three more of those, before making my decision to step down as another ‘interregnum’ draws to a close. And at one point during my time, we lost the majority of our resources, while parts of the church were redeveloped, leaving the youth group meeting in offices, unfinished rooms and lounges that were just too small. (Catch up with my earlier blog post about valuing young people through these difficult times.) Now everything has finished, the facilities are great, but for more than a year, they were… not.
However, now we have a dedicated youth leader, who is seeking to take the youth work forward in exciting new directions. There are new volunteers who care deeply about the young people and are really switched on in their thinking and practice. And, frankly, I’m not irreplaceable.
For an egomaniac like myself, this is quite an admission, but even bigheads have to recognise that this work is God’s, not ours. We’re not working to create our own kingdom, but to spread the rumour of the kingdom of God. And there is no end to the gifted, talented, enthusiastic and knowledgeable people God is raising up to take on new responsibilities. If we stay in one place too long, we turn into an obstacle, rather than a help. We can exert a stranglehold on positions of responsibility (‘I always write the spiritual programme!’). We can get set in our ways and become resistant to change, rather than helping others to grow and develop.
So when summer rolls around, I’ll be stepping down from my church youth team. I’ll carry on with other aspects of youth ministry (I volunteer on a Scripture Union holiday, for example), but it’s time for a break from the regular stuff. And I’ll still talk to the young people in church, of course! Relationships with adults in church are vital for the spiritual development of young people.
Where God is leading me, I’m not sure yet. He has been speaking to me over the past few months about lots of things, but I’ll carry on listening. And, I’m not ruling out a return to youth work after a break! As the famous Byrds song says (or is it Ecclesiastes…), there is a season for everything. And that includes recognising when it’s time to stop for a while. I wonder if you need to ask yourself what season you’re in? Be honest with yourself. You might come to the conclusion that God want you to move on. You might decide that youth ministry is still where you’re meant to be. Whatever the answer, it’s important to ask yourself the question.
Alex Taylor is part of the Diocese of London’s Children and Youth team.