|Credit: Creative Commons (Alan Turkus)|
You may not know me, but you and I, we're part of the same family. We're youth workers. Whether we volunteer or we're full-time paid staff members, we spend lots of our time loving teenagers and helping them come to know Jesus and grow in their relationship with him. Even if we don't know each other, when we meet there is an instant camaraderie that transcends age, geography, culture, race, and even theological distinctives. It used to be that our family dinners and reunions were limited to our local network meetings and--if we're blessed enough--regional and national youth ministry conferences. But thanks to the miracle of the interwebs, we can catch up with one another online via blogs, Twitter, and other cool methods.
So you see, we're family. Which is why this is a family discussion.
Since we're family, we're not going to point fingers. I'm just going to try to state the issue as clearly as I can: we complain way too much. And before you accuse me of being judgmental, know that I have a finger pointed squarely at myself.
In recent years, I've noticed that there are two types of youth workers: those who are excited at the possibilities, and those who are discouraged by the obstacles. And I think that the latter category is far bigger than the former. And when we spend way too much time in the latter category, we've had a tendency to become complainers. Here are some symptoms of our complaining:
We complain about our budget. I know, I've been there. But your budget isn't the reason why things aren't going the way you want them to. There are so many things you can do without a budget, so I know your small budget isn't keeping you from doing at least something. And the last time I checked, the Holy Spirit isn't limited by an unfavorable balance sheet.
We complain about our senior pastor. This one's really disrespectful. Look, no senior pastor is perfect. (Just like I've noticed that no youth pastor is perfect.) And if things are tough with your senior pastor, by all means, talk to your spouse, and perhaps a trusted friend or mentor to try to work out what you should do, and then work directly with your senior pastor to resolve any issues. But if your general attitude toward your senior pastor is one of complaining, you are battling him, and not working with him. Pray for him, pull for him, and support him in public. And if you can't do those things, do the honorable thing and resign.
We complain about the church down the street. Seriously? This one's just sinful. I once heard a youth worker complain that it was hard to get kids to their youth group because of a big church in their area. Do 100% of the teenagers in your church love Jesus and go to church? If not, why are you complaining about the students who are already attending a church? Quit complaining and go talk to a teenager who hates church and needs Jesus.
We complain about parents. For youth workers, parents are an easy target, especially for youth workers who don't have kids. News flash to those of you who don't yet have kids: one day, at some point, you'll be that parent that a teacher, coach, or dance instructor complains about. It happens. When you love your kids, you're going to annoy a few people. And if you're complaining about parents who don't love their kids enough or don't care much about helping their kids follow Jesus, why on Earth are you spending so much time complaining about them and such little time loving and equipping and serving them? Parenting is tough. Parenting teenagers is really tough. Parents need someone on their side, and you might be the only ally they have in the world.
Those are just a few of the symptoms I've noticed. And for the record, I've been guilty of all of them in my youth ministry career. I know this isn't what we're like all the time, but I've seen (and done) enough of it to concern me. I don't know if we've got a chip on our shoulder, but the complaining needs to stop. Yes, it's sometimes a difficult job--especially for those who don't get paid anything to do it. Yes, there are and will always be obstacles. So let's accept that as fact, stop complaining, and do the work that we are blessed to do.
QUESTION: What are you tempted to complain about sometimes? C'mon, be honest; it's okay if this turns into a group confession time.