Over the past several days I’ve started to put words to what I’ve been observing: The tribe of youth ministry is anxious.
2009 has been a ridiculously hard year. Last October when Tony Campolo spoke in Sacramento he said something like… “Church, as we know it today, will collapse with the economy. And we will shake ourselves off and ask, ‘what do we do now?”
A year later we have to step back and acknowledge that in many ways Tony was right.
- A down economy has forced tens of thousands of churches to re-evaluate how they spend money. Not a bad thing, but has caused stress at all levels of church staffing.
- A shifting culture, and the owning of the reality that traditional youth ministry programs are fading in their effectiveness… more stress for youth workers.
- Time to think, causes that stress to bubble to the surface.
- The length of time things have been stressful (for some, 2-3 years now) causes this stress to manifest itself.
And the manifestation of what we are all feeling is this anxious elephant in the room at the National Youth Workers Convention. It’s the tears shed as we go to worship. It’s the hunger in conversation. It’s the sleep in the hallways. It’s the lack of eye contact. It’s the nervous laughter.
We are an anxious tribe. We fidget. We wring our hands. We bang our heads against the wall. We wonder what to do with ourselves. We wonder what the future of youth ministry is. We hypothesize. We position ourselves. We take our stress out on others. We blame ourselves. We blame our leaders. We blame our calling. We blame God.
For me… recognizing this tribal anxiety and the disorder that goes with it is 90% of the battle. All of those symptoms in our tribe, I don’t know what to do with them. But anxiety, I know what to do with that.