There are weeks where I struggled with pre-youth group anxiety. I was anxious with questions like
- would the service go well?
- was I prepared?
- was the sermon good enough?
- would the students like the game?
These questions were all part of my need to make sure things were perfect. Why? Why did I need to be perfect? I guess I felt like God was counting on me and to fail at youth was to fail God. My perspective was all messed up. There was no way I could fail God, but my worry told me different. Have you been there?
I don’t have it all figured out, but if you struggle with pre-youth group anxiety, let me offer few pre-service tips that have helped me through the years.
Give yourself a ton of grace
There is no such thing as the perfect youth meeting. Something that we don’t want to happen will usually happen. The game doesn’t work, someone gets mad at someone else or at us or there’s not enough food. It’s always something. Go into your youth meeting with the idea that you and your youth ministry is a work in progress rather than a single still shot of perfection you have to add to your photo album. Besides, no one remembers a perfect youth meeting, it’s the messy ones that get told around the campfire.
Prepare the best you can
Because I am a super-prepper (not that kind) and I hate failure, I cross my t’s and dot my i’s. I prepare for I want to happen but for also for what might happen. Once I feel I am prepared, building the framework of the meeting and the outcome I’d like to see, I can allow the creative juices to flow and allow God to be God. My plans being achieved is not the goal, the goal is that I have given God something to move through.
“Preparation doesn’t assure victory, it assures confidence.”
― Amit Kalantri, ‘Wealth Of Words’.
If you’re prepared, you’ll be more confident in yourself and anxiety will have a hard time taking over.
You have meetings to love students
Preparation gives you the freedom to be relational rather than busy with details. You have to remember you purpose in meeting, to show kids that God loves them and that you love them. If love is baked into every feature of your meeting, from greeting to closing prayer, you cannot fail. Students know when you’re trying to impress them and when you’re trying to love them.
Give away more tasks
A lot of my anxiety came from the sheer amount of tasks I was in charge up and each one of those I felt had to be perfect. The more tasks I gave away the less of a burden I had. I had to trust others to do not only to do as good a job as me but believe they could do a better job than me and, most of the time, they did.
Talk to yourself
Yes, a little self talk can help. I have my one little mantras, feel free to steal them.
- You’ve done this (been here) before.
- They hired me because they believe I’m qualified.
- God brought me here and will help me through it
- These students are not my enemy or a problem to be solved, they love me and I love them.
- I will not lead out of fear
- Why are we gathering? To lift up Jesus, not myself.
- I’m not running a meeting, I’m meeting with family.
But you, beloved, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God as you await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you eternal life.… Jude 1:20,21
You have the foundation. God loves you. You know Christ as Savior and Lord. You know his Word to be true. Build upon this foundation by giving yourself a boost of confidence in what God has called you to do.
Talk to God
Yes, this seems simplistic, but, and I speak for myself, the more I put the burden on my shoulders the less I trusted God. This was and is a bad idea. The first half of Jude says we should build up ourselves in the faith but the second part says “praying in the Holy Spirit”. Whatever you theology, praying in the Spirit, ultimately, means releasing and surrendering your will to God’s will.
Praying is less about the right words but the right attitude. Praying in the Spirt could be crying out to God for help, weeping before God in silence or speaking in a holy language you do not understand.
Prayer isn’t about getting the right answer or God answering your wish for a successful youth meeting, it’s about crawling up in your Father’s lap and saying, like Moses, “Lord, if you do not go with me, I will not go.”
If you have a youth meeting coming up, I pray your youth meeting goes well but more than that, I pray for your heart in Christ.
I pray you grasp the Father’s love for you whether the meeting is good or not.
I pray you understand that God is with you in the messy meetings.
I pray that your anxious thoughts do not overwhelm you but the confidence of God infuses you with power.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.… Philippians 4:6
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