I’ve been called it many times. In moments of embarrassment, I’ve even found myself murmuring it under my breath at myself. Some days I don’t think I’ll ever shake the label.
That’s right. I’ll admit it. I’m awkward. Whether it’s a conversational misstep or a wrinkle in the rug, I often find myself in awkward situations, usually perpetrated by my own foolishness. And it seems that in youth ministry, some invisible force puts its mischievous fingers on the dial and turns my awkward all the way to eleven.
Eleven All Over Again
Youth ministry is a place where the person you were when you were in sixth grade seems to matter. Those insecurities that you left behind with grade school begin to creep back up to the surface, like a troublesome ivy that’s trying to choke out your confidence. You show up to a youth event expecting to serve as an adult leader, an influencer, and are reduced to a shadow of your pubescent fears and anxieties. Teenagers have a unique way of bringing out the best in us.
The memories and fears that come up can be enough to petrify the strongest of individuals. So what is one to do?
Resting In The Gospel
The challenge of ministry is that we are being shaped as we serve. God uses our ministry not only as moments to transform others, but as the crucible of our characters. Ministry will show us our incompetencies, weakness, and sinful hearts. And there is only one thing that can bear the weight of our sinful hearts- grace.
In the gospel, we find a Father who pursues rebellious, wayward people like me. He sends his perfect son, Jesus, who lives a perfect, unflawed life, dies a grisly death, and is raised again in victory over all his enemies, namely sin, Satan, and death.
By faith in Jesus, I am counted perfect (not flawed), sinless (not wicked), and a son (not an alien). I am identified with Christ. That insecure sixth grader of my past no longer defines me, because Jesus has redefined me in his perfection.
Awkward No More
When I rest in the identity I have in Christ, I have the freedom to be embarrassed. I can admit that I am occasionally awkward, that I’m no longer “cool.” And that’s a good place to be, because I’ve stopped worrying about who I am and can focus on who Christ is and who Christ wants our teens to become.