A member of my church council recently asked me, “What do you feel is the key to our church keeping you as our youth worker?”
To me, this is an interesting question, one I believe is often overlooked in favor of it's close relative, “When and why should you leave your ministry position?”
No doubt the latter is a question youth workers must at times wrestle with. While there are certainly legitimate reasons to leave a youth ministry position, if we in ministry never consider why we should stay, I fear it will become too easy for us to abandon our position as soon as difficulty arises.
Knowing this, I think the question, “Why stay?” is one worth wrestling with. As I've done so over the past few weeks, I've realized that even though I love the students who I am privileged to serve, they are not actually the reason why I stay. After all, I'm a youth worker who loves teens. This is part of how God has wired me. As a result, I'm confident that I would love teens at any church I am called to serve.
The answer to why I stay, then, is both more mysterious and more pragmatic than this.
In terms of the mysterious, I stay at my church because it is the place God is calling me to serve.
Beyond this, however, there are several pragmatic reasons why I stay.
1) I stay because of the leadership of my senior pastor. He is truly a gifted leader who makes staff feel valued.
2) I stay because of the way my staff handles conflict. When problems occur, my staff supports one another while helping those involved in the conflict to work toward reconciliation.
3) I stay because of how my congregation values and supports its youth, encouraging and allowing them to use their gifts to contribute to our faith community.
4) I stay because my congregation cares enough about me to ask and wrestle with this question in the first place.
5) I stay because of the freedom, flexibility, and support my congregation has given me to pursue a master's degree.
6) I stay because of how my congregation treats my husband, valuing him because of who he is and not simply because of his relationship to me.
7) I stay because of the way my congregation values social justice.
8) I stay because my congregation has become my home. It's my community and as such, I both invest in and receive nourishment and support from it.
9) I stay because I believe that long-term youth ministry promotes trust that strengthens a youth ministry and benefits all involved, including myself, adult leaders, parents, students, and congregation.
That's why I stay. Why do you?
Whatever your reasons are, I hope that as you take time to contemplate them, you are filled with gratitude, just as I am when I look at this list of reasons I stay at my congregation.