Old keyby Tyler Hanna

Joy? What is joy? That is the question that so many people in this world ask. Joy is that amazing feeling you get when you know you’re making a difference. Joy is the feeling you get when you realize that all of your hard work and sacrifice has paid off. Joy is to longsuffering as happiness is to sadness. Joy is simply contagious. Joy is Christ.

Joy is the one word that I’d use to describe my Youth Ministry Internship with Radiate Student Ministries at Bethel Christian Fellowship in St. Paul, MN (which I started in the fall of 2014). When I am working with the youth group I know that I’m making a difference and impacting lives. I’ve had the privilege to not only serve the students, but their parents, and the Youth Pastor, Ben Clark, as well.

Many people who get into youth ministry do so for the students. They quickly realize, however, that there are many relationships within youth ministry that must be balanced. If you’re an intern, then you’ll especially have to make sure you’re balancing your relationship with the Youth Pastor, because he’s your boss! Luckily, I have had Pastor Ben as my boss and it has been nothing short of a blessing. Being able to work alongside him and for him has really grown me and shown me a lot about myself. But the biggest thing I’ve learned being under Pastor Ben’s leadership is how to lead with gentleness, grace, and truth. When you are following a great leader it’s easy to take joy in what you’re doing.

Another area that I have had particular joy in is working with the students directly (obviously). When I was a high school student I was particularly rambunctious, and I didn’t really have any healthy role models to look up to. I know what it’s like to be a student who is indifferent about life but struggles with questions of faith and identity as I didn’t come to Christ until after High School. Working with the students allows me to step in and be a role model. I’m able to be the person that I never had growing up to the students within the youth ministry. This makes me truly happy.

One important aspect of working with youth is building relationships with the parents. Parents are the primary faith-shapers of their children. I haven’t been the best at connecting with people who are older than me. Probably because I’m in that weird young adult phase were I’m not an adolescent but I’m also not an adult quite yet. When I’m able to connect with parents about their children it is encouragement on both ends. The gratitude that I have received from parents has been, at times, almost overwhelming. To know that I’m making a difference in the lives of the parents as I’m making a difference in the lives of students is incredibly joyful.

Jesus made a difference in the lives of many young people by generously giving Himself to them. Most notably His disciples. Jesus intentionally devoted about 18 months of His ministry specifically to His work with His disciples. Can you believe that? Jesus devoted HALF of His ministry to be able to pour into His disciples. Sometimes I get caught up in thinking that this is my ministry work, but how unlike Jesus that is! Jesus was generous with His time when it came to discipling those that would carry on His ministry.

One thing that makes this information particularly interesting is the age of the disciples at the time of Jesus’ ministry. Oftentimes, when we picture the disciples, we think of grey-haired, old men, but they probably weren’t any older than 25. Jesus was 30, so it makes sense that He would have disciples who were younger than Him. Education for a Jewish child concluded at the age of 15, and then the child would go and apprentice himself to his father to work in the family trade. What were most of the disciples doing when Jesus called them? They were working in their family’s trade. Jesus saw something in the youth of His time and devoted much of His time and energy into training and preparing them. The way that Jesus generously gave Himself to the youth of His time is absurd to even think about in the 21st century.

Recently I was at a court hearing for one of the students in the youth ministry. As I sat in the waiting room I noticed that there were a lot of names being called, but very few parents in the room. One by one they called off names, but no adults were there to support their children. I then thought, “Could this be symbolic of the culture and times we live in?” Have we written the youth off as irresponsible, immature, or down-right party animals? If this is the case then we need to step in and give our time and wisdom to the youth just like Jesus did with His young disciples. A little bit of generosity goes a long way and there is no greater joy than leading someone down the right path. When it comes to youth and young adults in your ministry, give generously, love freely, and serve joyfully. Take it from me, it really pays off: I would not be here if other people hadn’t done this for me.


Tyler Hanna is a Youth Ministry Intern at Bethel Christian Fellowship in St. Paul, MN.

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