The Importance of Perseverance

In youth ministry, perseverance is an important attribute to develop and maintain. The definition of perseverance is persistence in doing something, despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

In ministering to any group, especially teenagers, it requires perseverance. That ability to push through hard moments, or to continue to serve, love and lead when you feel like there is no positive change.

A farmer plants the seed and then has to wait for the before they see any sign of growth. We are planting seeds into the hearts of young people and trusting God that it has landed in good soil and will grow. Then the plant is not immediately fruitful until there is a degree of maturity. We don't have to wait for youth to be adults, but the seeds do need to embed in their heart for it to affect their life and choices.

Perseverance has been responsible for some of the greatest achievements. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay persevered. They were the first humans to reach the top of Mt Everest. People like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi had a cause. They persevered through many difficulties.

Our cause may not represent the scale of those endeavours, but they are still important. The lives of those young people are important to God and should be important to us.

We understand that youth ministry needs perseverance and what perseverance is, but how to we develop and maintain it?

 

1. Understand the long game and big picture

We can get caught up in the week to week activities and daily tasks and lose perspective. Our focus should be on creating lifetime followers of Jesus. So we need to put the momentary difficulties into perspective. On a weekly basis we pour all that God has given to us into the teenagers we have in front of and around us. We do this because we know that we can play a part in this season of their life. Like the farmer, we prepare the soil, sow the seed and water it, but growth is out of our hands.

Inevitably there will be a moment when you wonder if your efforts this week will be worthwhile. Unfortunately we can't time travel and see how things turn out. We can only do what we have been given to do, to the best of our ability. We love young people, we pray for young people, we show and teach them about our God.

 

2. Trust God with the results

I have said in an earlier blog that the most committed person to our young people is God. We have a part to play but in the end we are not in control of the lives of our young people.

1 Corinthians 3:6 - I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.

I remember a testimony a while back. I can't remember their name so let's call him Tom. God had challenged Tom to be more responsive to His voice and to share his faith more often. One day he was at work and walked past the break room where a colleague was making a coffee. Tom felt God speak to him to share his faith, so he went into the break room and engaged with his work mate. He shared the gospel. The result was that the work mate outright rejected the gospel and walked off, somewhat offended. Tom walked to his desk and sat down quite dejected. He knew he had heard God, he had taken a step of obedience and it was a failure. A little while later a man in overalls walked up to his desk. Unknown to Tom, this man had been in the break room repairing the fridge. He had heard everything that Tom had shared and it had affected him. That repair man became a follower of Jesus that day because Tom was obedient.

We don't know the outcome of our service and obedience. All we can do is be obedient in the moment and trust God with the results.

 

3. Remember your calling

I can't count the number of times when I have felt like giving up on youth ministry. There are too many. One of the things that has kept me going is that I know I am called. I know that there are some who feel called to youth ministry for a short season. Some feel called to youth ministry for a longer season. And some of us feel called for life. Ultimately, unless you feel that your time in a ministry is actually over, lean on your calling to sustain you.

Our relationship with God should be our main resource, and it should be what we press into first. But in some seasons we don't "feel" God, and so we lean on the revelation we have received previously. Hopefully one of those revelations was your calling. When things are difficult, the words that God has spoken should be used to help us persevere.

 

4. Don't carry the pain alone

A problem shared is a problem halved. Find safe people who you can talk openly with. Ministry has its struggles and we need to know that there are people out there that can listen and help. If you can find someone face to face then do that. If it is a personal connection that is primarily digital then do that. If it is a Facebook page that lets you connect and express yourself then do that. (Please make sure that the group is not public, so your posts don't appear in people's threads).

A good mentor or supervisor will allow you to vent, and then help you get some perspective.

 

5. Celebrate the wins

A joy shared is a joy doubled. We can get caught up in the negative or the areas to improve and miss the wins and the good we are doing. If you only see the challenges or improvements, then it will wear you down. There is almost always something you could have done better. Celebrate the regulars being regular. Celebrate the times the less regulars attend. Celebrate every salvation & every conversation. Celebrate every event where no-one ended up at A&E. Whatever you can find, celebrate it.

 

Your youth need adults who will persevere. Who won't throw in the towel when it gets tough. Who persist past the awkward stages of connection. Who show up week after week, month after month. Their parents need adults who will help their young people to hear about hope, God and how to make wise choices.

I pray God's richest blessing on you as you persevere. May you know His grace that sustains, His love that lifts and His peace that passes all understanding.