“I will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people and I will be their God” (Ezek 11:19-20).
Many still view youth ministry as a second-class calling, a holding tank for immature, video-playing adults who couldn’t quite make it in “real ministry” who end up playing dodgeball and Guitar Hero through their 20s and eventually go on to more respectable work in their 30s or maybe even grow up into “real” pastors with a more respectable salary.
Now I am a bit biased, or course, but I personally think youth pastors have much more in common with heart surgeons than community recreation directors. Every Wednesday night dozens of fragile, broken, confused, hurting teenagers come to our gatherings, hungry for meaning, purpose, self-worth, love, acceptance and a word of hope. In the context of a safe, loving, trusting relationship these teenagers begin to open their hearts up and give us access to the core of their being and permission to speak God’s heart-piercing truth into their lives, poking around with the scalpel of God’s Word.
If the Christian life is primarily about God coming into our lives and giving us a new heart (cf. Ezek 11:19-20), then youth pastors are God’s trained surgeons performing open heart surgery every week, many times over. Now that’s a high calling! Can you think of anything more significant, more demanding, more rewarding than that?
Not too long ago my wife Keri had her appendix taken out by skilled doctors. They opened her up, went in and carefully removed the ruptured appendix to heal her life threatening condition and make her well again. I took for granted that they had gone through the proper, extensive medical training to successfully carry out their life and death procedures. I look up to such doctors with a sense of awe and gratitude for the life enhancing work they do day after day.
I hope people will give youth workers a fraction of that respect and appreciation. We wrestle daily with the life threatening illness of sin and the terminal disease of death. We offer God’s life saving cure of Christ weekly to those who are perishing. Open heart surgery is no small thing and by God’s good grace we see successful transplants regularly. I love this “job”!
“[God’s] powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey” (Heb 4:12 The Message).