Some things will never change in youth ministry like middle school boys not taking showers, high school girls in conflict and church politics.
Maybe this pandemic has drawn attention to your youth ministry in ways that are not flattering and you’re being scrutinized and evaluated like never before or maybe you’ve been on the battlefield so long you need some hope and encouragement.
Take courage, this is nothing new, nothing you haven’t faced before. It’s time once again to take the battlefield and fight the good faith of faith.
Here are some thoughts to encourage you during this difficult time.
I have been reading about David’s mighty men recently and I am always blown away by their honor and heroism. If 2 Samuel 23 were made into a movie it would make the movie 300 look like a Pure Flix movie.
These warriors of old are not unlike youth workers of today. We are in the trenches fighting the Philistines that we imagine look like pastors, parents, students, our own emotions, family stresses, the devil, and life itself. Let me offer this small tidbit to encourage you today.
” Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them. But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the LORD brought about a great victory.” 2 Samuel 23:11,12
- When the Philistines banded together
We are at a disadvantage sometimes. We are the lone voice, right or wrong, in the board room, the parents meeting, the staff meeting, or the network meeting. You have a great idea, a vision, a desire, or a powerful thought, and it seems like everyone is against it. We have been trained to be peacemakers and Jesus certainly extols us to be peaceful, but there’s a time when we must speak out and risk putting ourselves in a less than peaceful situation.
If you’re outnumbered, think about scaling back or break your vision into smaller, digestible pieces. We must always remember that our ‘enemies”, real or imagined, are not human.
Parents, pastors, or deacons are not our enemies.
" For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. " Ephesians 6:11,12
It’s easy to use this verse to say that those who oppose us are driven by dark forces. This is not usually the case. Most of the time we are fighting ideologies and philosophies, generational practices and culture itself, and sometimes the enemy is our own hard- headedness. Shammah knew his enemy, and we must discern ours.
- Israel troops fled from them
There will be lonely times in youth ministry. There will be times you stand alone but you’re are not truly alone; God is with you. You may see your youth leaders flee, your students flee, and even your friends flee. They might not see the vision you see.
Some see taking new ground as a very scary thing and they don’t feel they can fight whatever boogey men lurk around the corner. The Israelites did not see the point of standing and fighting. To lessen the fears of those around us, we must paint the picture of a field worth fighting for.
Use stories of previous victories and potential victories to build the inner strength of those around you. Some will still flee but some may hear the warriors call and join you.
- But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field
This is where the rubber meets the road. Maybe Shammah was tired of running. Maybe he was tired of giving up ground. Whatever the reason, he stopped, drew his sword, and said enough is enough.
What are you tired of running from? Maybe it’s a meeting, a parent, a person of authority, your personal demons, whatever it is, it’s exhausting you. You must take your place. Your paychecks come from a church but your blessing is from God.
Your field might be your family, your young people, your values and you must fight for them against the devil, your own laziness, apathy, the culture and more. I don’t believe Shammah’s fight was short. I believe it took some time. If you fight too hard too early you’ll lose steam, momentum and possibly your job. Fight for the long haul not the short term.
In addition, I don’t believe the fight was over lentils. A field of lentils is where the fight happened, the fight was on principle. Shammah may have said to himself, “This far, no further” or maybe he quoted Gandalf, “You shall not pass!” Let us not fight over the frivilous (programs, policies, or privileges) but for the big picture, the spiritual growth of students within the context of the whole church.
- Every victory is the Lord’s
This should not go without saying. There are days you fight and win and take the credit when in reality it was the Lord who did it. When someone changes their mind, takes our side, or helps us push, we must look at it in the larger context of what God is doing. You may win a battle but the war is still raging.
“A song of ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” Psalm 127:1
We are co-laborers with God. He sees the architectural blue prints of our youth programs and churches and desires that they be in tune with His vision. When others laud us for great programs, large crowds or great ideas we must deflect praise to God and maybe defer focus from the group to stories of individual students who are the real victory stories.
You are mighty men and women of God. You have a field, defend it, fight for it but not at the expense of scorched earth where the ones we should love get hurt.
You are warriors in battle. Don’t give up. I believe in you but more importantly God believes in you.
Don’t go to battle alone, let me go with you!