In the previous section we saw how allowing God to lead through us means that we surrender over to Him the right to make decisions, trusting Him to communicate His will, not through us alone, but through His body of believers . As a result we lose some sense of control over the ministry. It is no longer “mine” but “His”. Here we will look at another aspect of this surrendering, namely a loss of control.
Jesus lives within us by His Holy Spirit and in doing so He is not passive. True, there are times when He may seem distant to us, or times when He actually withdraws a sense of His presence in order to strengthen our faithfulness in the silence, but these times aside, He actively wants to engage with us. The same is true of a youth ministry. God is present and is active in wanting to do His work both in the ministry and in the young people’s lives.
I like to be well organised and I have a conviction that God desires no less. After all this is important work and I dare not be haphazard or neglectful in my programming. There is however a downside to my desire to be organised and that is I risk completely organising God out of the picture. Whenever He intervenes and tries to prompt me to worship a little longer, to ask a different question from what is in the study, to change my message or to even set aside a whole programme completely, I resist because such actions don’t fit my plans of how things should be done.
Surrendering control and responding to an inner prompting to do things a little differently than planned is risky. It’s safer to stick with what is known and not take the risk of mishearing God and being wrong – and being seen to be wrong.
This loss of control goes beyond what happens within a programme. It extends to the planning of programmes and activities themselves. How often does your youth ministry leadership lead you into situations that are not “safe”? Do you accept challenges that place you outside of your comfort zone? Do you take on projects that can only succeed if God “shows up”? If the answer is “no” or even “seldom” then chances are you are more concerned with being in control than in allowing God to lead through you.
Following Him requires faith and without this faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). Leading by faith in Him is the opposite of leading by faith in our ability to control what happens. So dream a little – what might God be calling you and your youth ministry to do? What scares you yet fills you with a sense that just maybe you could pull it off if God is in it?
I urge you to be well organised and to prepare diligently for your times together. Bathe your preparations in prayer, seeking the Head of the Church as you craft your message, write your Bible study, or design an outline for how a programme will run, but once you have prayed and prepared, pray again, this time surrendering control of your programme over to God. Pray for the discernment and sensitivity to follow His dynamic lead and set plans aside if He begins to move in a new direction.
In the process of doing this I urge you also to take risks and do things that lie outside your ability to be in control. It’s in these places that seem too great for us to control, that we discover God is leading through us, taking care of things and receiving any credit we might be tempted to take for ourselves.
As I reflect back on many years in youth ministry, some of the greatest “successes” were those things we undertook in which we absolutely needed God to come through and take control, and some of the most memorable moments were when God gently set aside my plans and took over, leading His ministry through me.
I wonder how many opportunities and moments like these I missed through my desire to feel secure and comfortable by remaining in control?
In Part 6: My discipling