Fears of a Youth Group Leader #4

Going to change themes again; this one looks pretty nice.

I didn’t realize I had not titled the other posts with the main subject that each one deals with, but this 4th (and probably final) post will center around “Turnover”. As most of you may know, and just a quick recap for those of you who aren’t aware of my situation for this year, I am no longer serving as a youth group leader at church, and in the foreseeable future I probably will not return to youth ministry (this semester is an exception which I will get to in a moment). Long story short, I have “stepped down” (or you could say “taken off”) from being a youth leader because I was not able to make any of the church leaders’ meetings last semester due to clashes with university classes. Without good communication with the rest of the leaders I was serving with, it would not be wise to keep me on the team; although at the same time it was not wise to take me off the team either, but we needed to choose one, and so we decided to go with the option that hopefully has more long term benefit.

At first I was a bit disappointed to have been “stopped” from being a youth group leader (noting that I wasn’t stepped down due to issues with godliness or anything like that), but after a while I too would’ve agreed with the decision that my pastor made and that did help me get a grip on the situation more. Of course, I had wanted just to stay one more year in youth ministry, just to see half my group graduate from high school (I was taking year 11/12 guys); and then as I head into full time work next year, I would change to another ministry – so next year seemed to be a good time to make a transition, rather than this year. My major letdown was in not being able to grow alongside my year 12 boys and see them graduate, and also to set my year 11 boys up for the stress of the HSC year.

My fears, which later started dawning as a reality, was that my boys would no longer look up to me as a leader, no longer remember the experiences we shared, and no longer remember the things I’ve tried to teach them. And that is partially what happened soon after I left. I reckon there were feelings of betrayal there – that to them, I betrayed the youth group by suddenly disappearing without saying a word but this was primarily because I didn’t want to try and explain to them the idea of not turning up to leaders’ meetings and “winging” youth group purely for the reason of building relationships. I could’ve “winged” youth group if it was necessary, but technically there was no “need” for it; I was, in a sense, replaceable, which brings me to my second fear.

Being replaced (hence the title “Turnover”) makes me feel bad because I won’t be remembered for my deeds by my youth kids. I know that I have had an impact on their lives, though it may not show so clearly right now, but the idea that they’ll forget about me somewhat makes me feel like these three years of youth ministry may have been a waste of time. But I know that my purpose as a leader in their lives is first to help them build their relationship with God, before they build their relationship with me; so all in all those three years were not a waste, because I know they’ve learned to walk more closely with God.

It was quite painful to watch from the start of the year to now, and seeing all the problems that arose during the transition from me and my co-leader leaving youth group, to the new leaders coming in and trying to take over what we were doing. But again these problems are to no surprise, kids simply do not like change and don’t deal with transitions that well, and new leaders need time to build up their experience and their relationships with their kids, so nothing was happening out of the ordinary. I was always tempted to step back in to “bring order back to a world of chaos” but again there was no such need. People need to struggle and learn through situations like this.

Today I look at youth group as something that seems completely different to what it was last year, and different to what I had hoped it would’ve become if I was still serving there. Leaders should have their own ambitions and visions for what they want their group to become like, and though my vision seems further away that it was last year, God changes hearts and grows in people, and that affirms for me that the growth in godliness of the kids is inevitable, there is nothing I need to worry about. So I guess despite the fears I’ve mentioned thus far, God is the answer to my fears as a leader.

In the meantime, I have stepped back into youth ministry this semester. Although I did become free to return to youth group and other church ministries, it would seem bad to force yet another transition, and also to deny the chance for the new leaders to gain experience. I am now serving at my high school’s ISCF group again – this being the first time since I was serving as a leader in year 11 and 12. I guess it’s good that God has given me a second chance to improve on what I was trying to do back then; I wasn’t completely clueless in how to lead high school ministry as a high schooler, but going back now let’s me reflect on my mistakes back then, and to set things right for the next generation. Sadly, some of the older kids still remember me and some of the embarrassing things I did back then, but I’m really glad to have the opportunity to take my extra 3 years of Christian maturity back into an old ministry to see what impact I can have. And again while I have many fears stepping into ISCF, and thinking of my relationships with the teachers there, God is still the answer to all my worries and I know he will continue to guide my path.


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