by Dwight Johnson
Dwight is the Executive Director of Preston Taylor Ministries located throughout downtown Nashville. Preston Taylor Ministries help children and youth to discover and live their God-inspired dreams, develop a love for learning, and build joy-filled friendships that glorify Christ Jesus. he has dedicated the last 16 years to youth and family ministry in both Mississippi where he is from and now in Nashville, Tennessee.
If you are reading this, you are more than likely deeply engaged in a full summer with your students. Camps and events are the norm of your day. You are experiencing wins and, maybe, even some losses. As youth pastors, we can be really hard on ourselves. If we are not careful, we begin to base our identity around these wins and losses. We measure success based on attendance and participation rather than transformation.
What I have learned in 15 years of youth ministry in the neighborhood is that it has this way of reflecting back to us what is in us. One of the things youth ministry has reflected back to me through my students and ministry expectations is fear. Think about it, we are always being reminded that:
- The years of adolescence are key to faith forming and sticking
- Students who are able to engage with faith communities early are more than likely to develop their own personal relationships with God that will last into adulthood and that
- Roadblocks to faith development and evangelism isn’t just hearing more about Jesus, it’s also about addressing economic, educational and cultural boundaries
I am just going to take a moment to say what you are already saying and thinking: this is hard, it is heavy and it is down right scary.
We don’t have space often to process the fear that comes with community fear. From families facing catastrophic events, to food deserts, to lack of access, ministry in the neighborhood presents a burden that, for me at least, has presented fear.
But, here is the reality: God is already aware of the stumbling blocks. God is already aware of the needs of your people. God is aware of you.
Facing the fear, then, looks a lot like surrender. Give back to God what makes you afraid in your ministry efforts. It could be a ministry-based fear or it could be a personal fear that ministry has reflected back to you. You will only be able to receive from God as much as you are willing to surrender. Surrendering those fears that come with ministry opens you up to receive something greater than fear: peace.
Your fear doesn’t scare God and it helps us to see a need for something greater than what we can do for ourselves.
Surrender starts with honesty. It starts from keeping it real and confiding in people that are safe for you. Confession leads to freedom, freedom being the ability to fully lean into a trust and dependence on God to do for your ministry what only God can do.
Between your fear and peace is faith, the substance of what we hope for, evidenced by things you haven’t seen yet. You may not see it yet, but be encouraged that God sees what makes you afraid and offers hope and peace to you. The question now is: Will you receive it?