Today's guest post is from Tim Branch, a volunteer with YL in TN. You may have heard Tim's dad, Jim, speak at a Young Life camp. Tim blogs for YL leaders at http://timbranch18.blogspot.
com and has a personal record of -9 on the Windy Gap frisbee
It's easy to get discouraged in ministry. We have this tendency to freak out when things aren't going well, and doom ourselves to remain where we are forever. But wherever you are in your ministry, whether you're getting the silent treatment from half the sophomore class, or whether you are being ridiculed at the lunch table twice a week, remember this: time is your best friend.
For all the confusion it creates to think about a God that may exist outside of time, I have a theory that we really don't understand time as well as we think we do. People have an inconvenient habit of seeing the way the world is, and forgetting that it changes; that it's always changing.
When we have been through a lot of things with someone, we just become connected with that person. That person knows part of our past, enough of it to make us feel like they understand us and what we’ve been through. I look back at my best guy friends who’ve walked with me through the thick and thin of life, and I see that history in their eyes every time I look at them. We share something sturdy, something lasting that makes up the groundwork of meaningful friendships, something that doesn't allow it to be easily shaken. I look back at girls that I shared special experiences with, like special trips or special missions or special accomplished objectives or special hardships, with fondness. I see something in them too, something that creates a special connection... and that thing is an understanding of where I’ve been. Where we’ve been and what we’ve been through are the things that make us into who we are.
So, when someone is with you through good times and hard times, you're going to feel like they know you. Not only that, but paired with an aura of safety (which is your responsibility to exude as a Young Life leader, or mentor, or even a parent), that person becomes both a safe haven to share deep thoughts with and a solid lifeline in times of severe hardship. And that, my friends, is something both special and uncommon in this world. All you have to do to be a good Young Life leader is to follow Jesus and be willing to give that away.
Here’s what I’m trying to say. For those of you who, like me, had a hard time seeing how you could possibly end up getting a high schooler to care even a tiny bit that you drove 30 minutes to come see them, take heart. Time is your best friend.
It’s not as imperative as you think to earn cool points. Just grab onto something and hold on tight, and keep holding on for months, or even years. Because once you have continually offered a safe place to a hurting young person (which I promise you is rare in their lives), and you have walked with them through happy seasons and sad seasons, time just gels you together. You just find yourself in the place you hoped for, all of a sudden, without having to earn any favor or any cool points. And man, isn’t that a relief. I broke my back for some cool points. It mostly ended badly... I don't wanna talk about it.
Here is a small math equation that illustrates what I'm saying:
cool points <<<< quality time
those are "less than" signs, just to be absolutely clear.
You don't have to strive so hard for the affirmation of high schoolers to be effective in ministry. You just have to be with them (and be with God). It truly is a waiting game. Just keep showing up. You're normally guaranteed to be "that weird guy/girl that comes to lunch" for the first semester, or even year. But time has a way of normalizing things. You become normal, eventually, and when that happens you end up (by default sometimes) rooted into the lives of people you never thought would care that you even exist.
So keep doing what you're doing, and don't worry if they're not responding well. A successful Young Life leader is simply a thick-skinned Young Life leader who doesn't give up despite multiple rejections. And who knows? Maybe through being rejected in ways you didn't even think possible, God wants to show you a little bit about how he pursues YOU. God has a way of using my ministry experiences to say, "Here's what's happening between you and Me."
If He's called you to ministry, failure only happens when you disobey. We can't change what happens when we follow the call. Maybe it's good, maybe it's bad. But God doesn't need us as much as we think He does. Our role in his plan is basically the same role as a kid whose dad boosts him up to dunk a basketball. All we have to do is go where we're called, and the rest is up to Him! -Tim Branch
"The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. 8 But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” Ezekiel 2:4-8
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12: 1-3