Transitions in Youth Ministry: Changing Winds and Drops in Temperature

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You know that feeling, when the wind changes and the temperature drops in those early evenings just on the verge of fall weather? The air cools, the breeze blows, the sun lowers to the place where its rays shoot between tree branches. The street lights aren’t on yet, but the day is coming to a close. It is one of my favorite times.

Unless, of course, I still have work to do. And then, all those good feelings morph into stress.

Around six months ago, I began to feel that “close of day” feeling as I spent time with God, but it wasn’t a feeling I was ready for. There was a sense of closure, of a season coming to an end, but I wasn’t sure I was prepared for that. He began to give me a peace with the work I had done in the ministry I’d been serving, and that was good. But I also knew there was still so much to do. We weren’t ready for change. We didn’t want to go someplace else. We love these students! We’ve poured everything we’ve had into them, for years. And without children of our own (except our dog, Pippa), these were our kids. Lord, we’re not ready!

I had to wonder what God was up to. Was he getting ready to move us, or simply to bring us into a new season where we were? Either way, the sense was real: God was calling us to something new. A new city? A new church? A new ministry? We weren’t sure what the “new” was, but we knew it was coming.

What I know now is that God was preparing my heart in those hidden prayer times for a move to another state, another church and another level of ministry. But in the midst of all that change, He was also giving me a peace, as Paul says, that surpassed all understanding (Phil 4.7).

Let me be clear about this: We wanted to go wherever God wanted us but we didn’t ever want it to be an “escape” from our current reality. We genuinely wanted to go where he led. After all, we loved our students. We loved what God was doing among them. We didn’t want to get ahead of God’s plan for them or us.

So when God moved, we moved. And in the process we’ve discovered a few things that made the transition more do-able. Your journey will be different, of course, but here are a few things God has taught me along this journey from out of one season and into another.

Our job is not to engineer the design of our lives but to be obedient in running the course God puts in front of us.
The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. – Psalm 32.8

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. – Hebrews 12:1

In todays world, it is so easy to get caught up planning, strategizing, and implementing plans for what is to come, but that isn’t our role. Our job is to be attentive — not lazy, but listening for God to speak. Then when we hear his voice, we run in that direction with all we have until he speaks a new direction. If hearing his voice is the key, then maybe our best investment is in the time it takes to learn how God speaks. Eliminate anything that prevents you from hearing God’s voice. Let him dig down deep into who you are, so he can do a work of renewal and sanctification. “Deep calling to deep” — this is what we’re after. We want to be called, not into tolerable jobs, but into his glorious work. And we can’t be obedient if we can’t hear. Being in full surrender and obedience to God, opens our ears all the more to hear him, experience him. Hearing Gods voice leads us to run the race with all we have.

Have faith that if God is speaking to you, He is also speaking to those around you.
And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem…And (then) I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” – Nehemiah 2:12,18

Telling others, especially those who will be impacted by this new season, is something that doesn’t come easy. Although God is calling you somewhere new, it will impact many people around you. We were slow to tell anyone about what we sensed God was doing in our lives, until we were confident of his plan. We didn’t want people to think we were abandoning them. Our prayer during this season was that God would give us reassurance by the encouragement of those we told.

We needed the council of those who know us best so before anything was decided, we reached out to our mentors and parents, both earthly and in the faith. We laid everything out for them and asked them to pray. We trusted in God’s provision over our own doubts and questions. We discovered that when God is calling, he confirms it by the witness of others and prepares their hearts, too.

It isn’t our understanding that qualifies the call of God. It is God’s peace.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5

We trust in God. We trust that his ways are higher than our ways. God works in the supernatural as well as the natural. God can work through us in the supernatural, but our understanding is limited to the natural. So if God is planing our natural steps in the supernatural, then when he lays our path in front of us we aren’t going to have a full understanding of it all. How scary would it be if we knew everything God was up to!

Although our human understanding is going to be limited when it comes to God’s plans and work, our faith is not limited. Our faith brings hope. Our faith brings strength. Our faith in God brings peace.

This peace surpasses all understanding, as God has promised. That peace God gives us is crucial. As we saw in the point above, if he is releasing his peace in this new season to us, he will also be releasing that same peace to those around us. It is not our understanding that moves us; it is his peace. This peace of God is what moves us from one season to another, and in the going we have found joy.

Whatever your circumstances, be encouraged. As the sun sets on this day, the sun is promised to rise on the one toward which God is calling.