This is a another guest blog post from our great friend Chris Ozorio. To read his last blog click here
There are a lot of conversations out there amongst Youth Leaders regarding longevity. One in particular that has bubbled up is “Should I stay the course or search for a different context?” Whether you’re just getting started in Youth ministry or you’re a “lifer,” the wrestling on this one is inevitable. Here are some thoughts that have helped me in the midst of a few of my transitions.
For me, it’s not simply just a political or strategic question. It’s an issue of faithfulness. I’ve been dubbed by some of my closest friends and ministry partners as being “faithful to a fault.” Though that may sound honorable, it really is rooted in my broken neediness of approval. If my need for the approval of people outweighed my faithfulness to God’s call, to either stay or to search would be a bad move. So I’ve got to keep that in check.
So here’s the litmus test, in order of importance:
- Have I been faithful to God?
- Have I been faithful to the people He has given to me?
- Have I been faithful to the people He has given me to?
First order of Business
Faithfulness to God is primary. If my primary Covenant relationship is with the Father, it is that relationship that takes precedence. It is from Him that I receive approval. It’s there that I establish integrity. It is from there that I draw my identity.
My heart has got to be aligned with the Father’s. If my motivation to search for another context to do ministry is driven by any kind of selfish desire, I’ve already moved outside of covenant.
I think of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, grieved to the point of death, and the disciples right there falling asleep. He still focuses on the will of the Father. There is nothing opportunistic, or lucrative that he moves toward, nor is there any frustration or battle that he is running from. He stayed the course to the cross, and for that, I am eternally grateful!
In contrast, I think of the rich young ruler who found it hard to change the course of his life because of all that he had. Wealth is what he has gone down in history as holding on to tighter than the promise of eternal life. May it never be that gainful employment would override my allegiance to God!
When I pose the question, “Have I been faithful to the people God has given to me?” I’m speaking of those IN relationships that function as community of faith and accountability: family and close relationships with whom I share covenant identity. Faithfulness here looks like representing the family well, allowing transparency and the challenge of relationships to be a place of processing out decisions, and straight up putting others before oneself.
Again, Jesus in the garden represented His father well in the long suffering for the very disciples who fall asleep during his greatest intimate struggle and later fled during his greatest public struggle. He prayed for them. Amazing.
I’ve been given an incredible wife and family and an oikos (extended family) that is invaluable. It’s more valuable than a ministry opportunity, more valuable than a pay-increase, more valuable than a perfect-fit-job-description.
For years, I’ve considered myself a “lifer” in Youth ministry. I have a deep passion to see young people be connected to and conductors of the Kingdom of God. I’ve had a mentor and good friend say often, “There is no higher calling than to work with youth.”
The thing is after years of doing this stuff, the young people and team members I’ve invested in are not all super-star missionaries, pastors, or evangelists (though I have seen that in many of their futures.) The question here is “Have I made disciples?” At the end of the day, that is what is important, right? That I faithfully re-invested what was invested in me; that the DNA of heaven would be passed on and propagated as a result of my labor.
Whether my time in any given position be interim or holding tenure, I’ve learned to view my time with the people I am given to as short. Jesus had three years with the disciples. The longevity of the Good News given to them has surpassed their lifetimes and will ours as well. If I can translate that kind of focus and urgency into the way I pour into mine, I think I just may be a bit effective!
Keeping it Straight
In short, my encouragement for those with the Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go playing in your head:
Stay the course until you’ve been faithful to God and his call on you in this season, being sure your affirmation and identity are found in Him. Submit to your community and fight for the integrity of it. Sow generously and make disciples. If you’re up to all of these, the question whether to stay the course or search for another context may be easier to answer.