One of the major concerns of my life is the high turnover of youth workers in youth ministry. The odds are high that most of the youth workers in churches today will not be in the same church two years from now. Furthermore, the majority of the volunteers won’t be involved in the youth group next year. Burnout and frustration are chronic handicaps in our mission to reach young people.
I believe the high turnover rate in youth work is often due to a lack of personal preparation for youth ministry. How can we who have been called to work with kids prepare ourselves to be effective for the big haul?
I once heard it said, “Untended fires soon become nothing but a pile of ashes.” One intern involved at my church said, “I can’t afford to take the time to have a quality devotional life with God.” My reply was simply, “You can’t afford not to have a quality devotional life with God.”
Many youth workers are high on energy and enthusiasm. We can wing a program and Bible study with some degree of success. However, in the long haul we often run out of gas and burn out spiritually because we have neglected to fuel the fire of our faith.
Most Christian leaders have their most effective ministries after they are in their forties or older. They are mature and have set a foundation for their faith. Unfortunately, many youth workers never become effective ministers in their forties or older because their lack of personal time with God catches up with them. They fade away before God can use them in the greatest ways possible.
Paul’s advice to Timothy was to “train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7). A disciplined devotional life is not an option for spiritual growth; it is a necessity. As I read the biographies of great men and women of God, there is one common thread visible in all of their varied lives: They all met with God on a daily, personal, devotional basis.
I had read many times about marathon runners “hitting the wall.” They experience intense pain, nausea, exhaustion, and even at times loss of primary bodily functions. Some years ago, after some halfhearted training, I ran a marathon. At mile 17, I hit the wall! It was as if my body quit working. After walking dizzily for a few miles, I regained enough energy to finish the marathon and tell my wife to remind me never to attempt something like this again without proper training. Many of us in ministry don’t take time to do the proper preparation for ministry, and we “hit the wall.” We leave the ministry before God can use us in the greatest way.
With proper priorities, there should be no excuse strong enough to keep us from a daily, disciplined, devotional time with God. I don’t believe length of time is as important as regularity. We Christians wonder why we feel powerless and spiritually drained when less than 1 percent of those who call themselves Christians spend 30 minutes or more a day with God.