Show Up - Elisha Bronner
Hey there! One thing I absolutely love about youth ministry is meeting other youth ministers! The student ministry community is my absolute favorite, and I am excited for you to meet some of the awesome individuals I've gotten to know over the past few years. My prayer is that you will be encouraged by this AMAZING post by Elisha Bronner. If you'd like to know more about Elisha, check her out on Instagram or stop by her blog.
When I first got involved with youth ministry back in 2015, the church I was serving in was undergoing major changes in their congregation. Due to factors outside of their control, many members of the church were being forced to move away, therefore inhibiting their ability to continue coming to this particular church on a regular basis. This, by default, impacted the youth ministry. It seemed as if overnight, the youth group dwindled to less than half of what it had been prior to these changes.
I remember one day when one person showed up for youth group. Imagine the disappointment when you’ve spent so much time preparing a message and fun games to last for two hours, waiting for more people to arrive, only to face the reality that this was really it: you and one dedicated individual. During this time, I was interning with the youth ministry, and the Youth Director reassured me that although this wasn’t ideal, it was okay. We took this concern to the Lord in prayer. We sought God about the direction in which to take our youth group, and what we could do to try and attract more attendees. While we were praying, I remembered a valuable lesson that someone taught me a few years earlier:
“Even if nobody shows up, you show up.”
These words were spoken to me in regards to ministry in general, yet are so applicable to youth ministry. The specific circumstances have changed since I was first reminded of these words on that one particular Sunday afternoon, but this lesson remains relevant, and I have carried these words with me since that day.
Every week, regardless of who or how many would be coming to youth, it was my duty to show up. I’m not so much talking about just making sure I was there (because, for the record I kind of had to be there since it was my job). I mean yes, it was very important for me to be there. But what was more important than me showing up and just being there, was the way that I showed up. My duty wasn’t just to show up, but to show up well. This is your duty, too.
What does that mean exactly? Glad ya asked!
It’s our duty to show up cheerfully.
People can tell when you really want to be somewhere. They can also tell when you don’t want to be somewhere. Middle and high schoolers are NO different. They’re actually probably the best at this. They know when we feel burdened by them, and they can tell when we are being refreshed by them simply by our attitudes. By showing up cheerfully, we can make sure that the members in our youth group know how valued they are. Don’t we all enjoy being with people who make us feel valued? I know I do. Well guess what? So do our youth groups.
It’s our duty to show up fully present.
I’m sure every youth pastor everywhere can attest to the fact that running a youth ministry means you have to do a lot of multitasking. While everything that you have to do behind the scenes is important, when it comes to the time to actually have youth group, it is imperative that we push all of those other priorities and distractions aside, and focus on our youth. Not that those things don’t matter, but the time with our youth should be cherished. Have you noticed how quickly the youngins grow up these days?! Time is fleeting, so the time that we get to spend actually being with them, and not just doing things for them, should be spent giving them our undivided attention. All of that other stuff can wait. The most important part of youth ministry is, you guessed it, our youth. We should treat and engage with them as such.
It’s our duty to show up intentionally.
Being intentional is such a huge part of every relationship. It is no different when it comes to our relationships with the kids in our youth groups. Middle and high schoolers deal with a lot on a daily basis--as I’m sure you know. Being intentional about listening to what’s on their hearts, as well as giving them the space to talk through whatever they may be dealing with at school, at home, or wherever else, makes a huge difference for them. Having intentional conversations with them allows them to respect your authority but also gives them the reassurance that you truly care about them. It helps them break down walls and establish secure connections with an authority figure.
Of course, depending on the size of your youth group, the extent to which you can have intentional conversations with each individual person may be limited. That’s okay. Still dedicate yourself to pouring Truth into each individual and getting to know them, even if it can’t always be through one-on-one conversation. Your sermons/messages/discussions as well as games can all be made intentional as well. This is essential in youth ministry, because while we want things to be fun, we have to also make sure we’re not throwing out purpose and significance for the sake of fun. Each message and game should point your youth group back to Jesus. When you are planning the lesson for the week, think about that. Be intentional about how you can use games and various themes to continuously lead your group to the Cross and create moments of reflection for them.
It’s our duty to show up faithfully.
At the end of the day, no matter how big or small, our youth groups are God given gifts to us. When God gives us things, regardless of what they may be, it is imperative that we tend to them faithfully. These things include gifts, talents, people, opportunities, material possessions, and, of course, our youth groups. Showing up may be a drag on some days. You might be tired, busy, and just really tempted to cancel. However, if we treat our youth groups as the gifts from God that they are, we will understand that we need to be faithful in the effort that we put forth. We need to show up consistently, whether 5 or 500 people show up. Each week should make it our goal to show up faithfully. We can’t quit halfway because we get tired, because things aren’t going how we expected them to, or because the initial excitement of running a youth group has worn off. A faithful steward tends to their crop in every season, to ensure optimal growth. We must do the same.
It’s our duty to show up wholeheartedly.
Our dedication to the Lord is directly reflected in the way that we carry out the tasks that He has given us to do. We need to do these things well, with every part of our hearts. As it says in Colossians, we are to work wholeheartedly, as working unto the Lord, and not unto man. Our wholehearted YES to God needs to be seen in every aspect of the way we run our youth ministry as well. Keep in mind that we are examples for those we are leading. They are paying attention! The way you lead your ministry and show up to youth group, gives them the message that this is what following the Lord looks like. The way you engage and interact with them, should mirror to them the love of Christ. This goes for when you’re in youth group, but also outside of church. This goes for how you act and engage with them when you support them at school functions, in sports and other extracurricular activities, and during fun events and fundraisers. Know that the role you play in the lives of your youth is a very important one. Let them see your resounding yes to the Lord in all that you do.
And last but not least,
It’s our duty to show up expectantly.
Any time we meet with and minister to our youth group, we should expect God to touch hearts and change lives. That is what He does! It’s not our job to carry the burden and feel the pressure of having to give an amazing message to capture the attention of the youth. We should, however consistently rely on and trust the Holy Spirit to do a new thing in their lives. Each and every week. It’s not just a routine or a check off of our calendars, and we shouldn’t treat it as such. When we keep God inside the box of our weekly schedule, then we miss out on what He can do when we surrender our youth group to Him. Let’s not miss out. Let us surrender and yield to Him. Let’s be fully expectant of what He can do– in the hearts of our middle and high schoolers, and in our hearts as well.
As much as I don’t want to admit this, I have to be honest with y’all: There are days where I fail at all of these.There are some very good days, but there are also some days that just do not go as planned, at all (I’m sure we all know how that is!). But even on those days, I have to remember to give myself AND my youth group grace. No youth group is perfect. No youth pastor/leader is perfect. No PERSON is perfect. We can’t hold ourselves to impossible standards and then be surprised when our efforts falter. We’re going to fail. We’re not going to get it right all the time.
But you know what we can do? Even after we fail, after we mess up, after we make mistakes, we can get back up, and show up over and over and over again. This might include admitting your faults. Giving an apology. Taking responsibility for your actions. But whatever it is, know that just because you have failed, does not mean you are a failure. You can keep showing up, and keep showing love. Don’t let shame stop you from showing up, in honesty, in vulnerability, in transparency, in courage, in boldness, and in love.
Show up, and show your youth group how treasured they are and how great the Gospel is.