If you show up at my house on a Monday night, you’ll find three high school girls around my dining room table, chatting about faith and college applications. Mentoring high school students is one of the many reasons I love serving in youth ministry as a young adult. But it’s a role I came to hesitantly.
Despite my initial insecurities, I’ve come to see youth ministry is a great place for young adults to serve the local church. Here are three reasons why.
1. Being young has advantages.
God uses adults of all ages and experiences to invest in teenagers for his kingdom purposes. As young adults, we may think we don’t have enough wisdom and experience to work with youth, but being young affords us other advantages.
With a smaller age gap between us and our students, we can easily relate to the ups and downs of life in the teen years. We’ve recently walked through similar situations of friendship hurt, confusion, and pain. We can relate to their sin struggles. We understand the wrestling in their faith and the anxiety about their grades and career path. We empathize with them as they await college decisions. And we can engage with them in navigating the latest social media apps and technology trends.
If we’re unmarried, we also have the advantage of more time and capacity to disciple students relationally that many married adults and adults with children don’t have. The flexibility of my current season enables me to pour into three high school students, not only by leading them in a discipleship group but also by checking on them regularly, meeting with them one-on-one, and being available to them on weekdays and weekends. I have free time to meet for coffee or dinner and to support them by attending their school and sporting events.
The flexibility of my current season enables me to pour into three high school students.
2. The Lord equips us.
I grew up in a non-Christian home and was unchurched, so I had no spiritual mentors to lean on. After becoming a believer in my early 20s, I was hesitant to serve in youth ministry. But the Lord used the insecurity I felt to fuel my desire to help students grow in their faith.
We don’t need to have all the answers to care for students. Pointing them to Jesus is the most loving thing we can do. And as we do that, we can come alongside them and help bear their burdens (Gal. 6:2). We can encourage them to draw near to God (James 4:8). We can build them up with affirming words when they’re facing discouragement (1 Thess. 5:11). We can remind them the Lord is near and he binds up their wounds (Ps. 147:3).
But this isn’t done in our own strength. Through studying God’s Word and through the time and prayer I’ve given to my students, the Lord has equipped me to minister to them. I rely on the Spirit’s guidance day by day to help me in this work.
3. We find joy in seeing God at work.
There’s a tendency in my generation to avoid commitment and prioritize personal fulfillment. Serving in youth ministry might seem like a hindrance to enjoying the freedom of our 20s. But as I’ve invested in my students, the Lord has grown my faith—and my joy.
Over the past few years, I’ve watched students grow through the highs of camp experiences, retreats, and summer missions trips and through the everyday moments at Wednesday night youth group and Sunday night small groups. God is at work in their lives, and it’s a delight to witness.
I’ve watched them follow the Lord by applying the truths of Scripture and living out their faith at school. I’ve seen them discover God’s character in new ways through sermons and Bible studies. I’ve witnessed the Lord’s work to resolve friendship conflicts and provide direction. Recently, I saw a student surrender her college dream to God’s better plan for her at a different school. As my students mature in their faith, my joy deepens.
As my students mature in their faith, my joy deepens.
Each of these examples reminds me of God’s goodness and mercy toward his children. They remind me of the ongoing process of sanctification in my students’ lives—and mine. By God’s grace, I’m growing in Christ alongside my students. I love modeling the Christian life for them, albeit imperfectly, and serving as the mentor I wish I’d had at their age. Caring for, discipling, and walking alongside students has become one of my greatest joys.