From spring semester of junior year at PLNU, I reflected on my ministry, particularly with Younglife:
This semester as an intern for Younglife has been a continued lesson of being humbled. God has been showing me how little I actually know, but in the midst of that how I can still be used in this state just simply by being present. Through various classes this semester, books I’ve read, and the events life has thrown at me, I have learned an incredible amount about what it means to have an enduring resilience when it feels like the whole world wants me to fail.
My views of what ministry is have changed somewhat dramatically over the course of just a few months. My previous ideas of ministry have grown and have been added on to, while I have also gained new perspectives. Before, ministry to me was an organization; while this can be true, it is not limited to that. I have learned how I can apply myself in the most impactful way to an organized ministry, and I have also learned the beauty of being a “walking” ministry.
Being part of Younglife has given me a deeper sense of the endurance needed in ministry. There is a serious delay of gratification that comes along with it, especially when you are just starting out. Even though I grew up in Younglife, coming back as a leader and trying to hang out with big crowds of high schooler’s was very intimidating for me. It took longer than I wanted for me to start feeling comfortable and for me to form the relationships that I wanted with the high school students. I have learned that sometimes, feeling uncomfortable, tired, and annoying doesn’t mean that I’m in the wrong place or doing the wrong thing, but is actually part of the job description. I have learned that more times than not, I don’t feel like going or being involved, and could come up with one hundred excuses not to; but I have also learned that there isn’t a single time I have regretted my decision to go anyways. Through my participation in Younglife I have created a community with high schoolers as well as fellow leaders, and with community, comes passion.
Community has always been my passion, but being a part of Younglife has helped me to define the details of what that looks like. A rich community is the result of intentionality. There is something to be said for pursuing each relationship and making it a point to create an environment where everyone feels welcome, wanted, and like they can be themselves. Younglife has shown me the importance of this intentionality and the hard work it takes. For example, texting high school girls every day, or meeting them before school—these are not my first choice activities to do, but without them the relationship between me and them would not exist. There is also a certain sense of accountability that is applied when you start to be more intentional. I have found how I am an example and a leader in every facet of life, and not just from one aspect of it. This is where living incarnationally really comes into play. I want my whole life to be an example of how to live a Christ centered life, not just bits and pieces of it. The people I’m leading shouldn’t have to rely on me to have the right words; to the best of my ability as a flawed human, I should be a walking example
I have learned how my gifting’s of hospitality, encouragement and helps all work together to brew up my passion for community. Knowing my own gifts, passions and strengths better has helped me to see ministry outside the organization. There is something so much bigger going on than just doing a nice thing for someone else, or “paying it forward”. When I am doing something that is JUST for someone else, I see myself get warn down after a short time. But I have learned to change my perspective; I am not in a ministry of doing nice things for other people, but rather a ministry of serving Jesus, Lord of all. There are times when I am doing something nice for someone else, but instead of having a loving heart about it, I catch myself holding a grudge inside, as if I am keeping tabs in a sense of all the good things that I do compared to others. This is the point at which doing nice things becomes draining. However, I have been learning to change that entire mindset. For example, I do not do my roommates dishes because she deserves for me to be doing them, but because it is a way in which I can be serving God. That is the point of which doing dishes goes from a seemingly big hassle, to instead the very simplest way I can glorify God. My perspective changed drastically when I compared doing dishes for someone else as a nice act, and Jesus innocently dying of the cross for me as His nice act. This comparison can almost be laughed at it is so absurd! This new perspective has enriched so many of my relationships and has even helped me to become a much more joyful person.
Throughout this semester my relationships have been a key factor in helping me to get though some particularly hard times. It has been interesting and humbling for me to see the two very different sides of relationships. On one hand, I have been very broken, and in low places where I have needed people to come and see me at my lowest in order to help me get back up. On the other hand, I have become a leader to girls who look up to me. The people that I surround myself on a daily basis have an incredible influence on me, and I am so blessed to have women of faith who can encourage me in my life.
Throughout this internship, I have come to learn that you can expect almost nothing in terms of what the journey of ministry will look like. We may have ideas, and thoughts, and goals for places we want to go, and more often than not God will step up and redirect our plans, reminding us that our view of where we are going is almost blind compared to what God can see as the bigger picture. God is outside of time and is really good at looking past what we can get stuck in seeing. In reading Henri Nouwen’s books, I have learned how our ministry really isn’t an act. Sometimes we can see ourselves as up on a tight rope, performing an act for everyone and expected to be applauded and praised when we get to the other side without falling. Get down. This isn’t about you. Why should I be expecting so much praise for myself? What I am but a mere instrument in God’s glorious master plan?! I have experienced so much grace from the people who surround me in ministry. Learning that I am going to fail sometimes, but that doesn’t make me a complete disappointment. There have been many times when I haven’t been able live up to my own expectations, and in turn I become very hard on myself, but I have been so blessed to be surrounded my people who remind me that it’s OKAY, and that I am still doing a good job simply because of how much I love. This has been vital, as sometimes I feel so inadequate that I want to quit, but the encouragement from those around me reminds me of the grace I receive every day. We are all “inadequate” in some way, but God still chooses to give us jobs that He trusts us with. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by the people I am in ministry with, and how my relationship with those people has grown exponentially since joining Younglife.
As I look back in reflection over this past semester and the ministry I have been involved in, it is very apparent to me how much growth occurred. I feel like I have gotten to know myself so much better, and along with that I have been able to apply myself places where I can be most impactful. I am able to feel so much more joy than I feel like I ever have before; I have also gained a new perspective on ministry, community, relationships, myself, and life in general. While I would never choose to go through the journey I have been on this past semester again, I am so, so grateful that I have experienced what I have. The future in ministry is one I can honestly picture myself in, and is one that I feel I am being prepared for every day. I feel better equipped than I ever have, and that makes me excited for the future, but I also know that I have so much to learn. I want to continue to learn, but not let the knowledge of what I learn get in the way of the relationships that develop out of a real open heart passion.