I had been a full-time youth minister for most of the past six years, and as anyone in this field will say, you must love kids a lot. Youth are some of the most creative, hilarious, gifted, wild, crazy, intentional, and loving people. I love to listen to their ideas and how they view the world because I fully believe they will be the ones to change it. I also love being the one of the people they feel comfortable coming to tell their hopes and dreams for their future. They’re so full of promise and optimism about what the world can offer.
The teenage years are so pivotal in their formation because it’s the first time they start taking their faith personally and seriously. The big questions start coming out. “Do I matter?” or “What’s the purpose of life?” or even “Does God actually exist? How can He be my personal Savior? What’s the point?” Like I said, big questions. I love sitting with them in these deep thoughts, not immediately jumping down their throats with the answers, but allowing them space and room to explore their thoughts and come to know Jesus. It’s really exhilarating!
One of my favorite things to talk about with students is their infinite worth and helping them discover their unique gifts and talents. These teenagers are right on the cusp of figuring out for themselves their path in life. They’re staring their destinies in the face and asking the hard questions like “What am I going to do?” I have the privilege and honor to sit with them in that wondering and provide insight, guidance, and most of all, a foundation on which they will launch themselves into the great, wide world. Amazing, right?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in being a youth minister is that it is not my job to have all the answers. It’s not my job to fix all their theological problems or make sure they are coming to Mass or singing loudly during praise and worship. When I first started, I thought that would be my job, but it isn’t. My job was to provide an environment of community and faith where teenagers can come, sit with their questions in a safe place without judgment, and find Jesus. My job is to make disciples. This quote from Divine Intimacy by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen sums up my job:
“Your goodness is your mission. God’s goodness is infinite, and nothing can be added to it. So, the goodness you bring to this earth was not created with your existence. Whatever good that comes from you (as an individual) already existed in Him. Some part of His infinite goodness was previously hidden until your birth. This is your mission. You are an icon of His goodness. You are needed. Show the world your goodness, show the world a part of God’s face previously unseen.”
I think this quote should be the goal of any Christian. You are not the sum of your gifts and talents, but rather, you reveal a unique characteristic of God the Father to the world that was previously hidden.
This is one of the messages I desire to communicate to not just the youth I interacted with daily, but with every single individual I encounter. You don’t have to be a teenager on the cusp of great, new possibilities to reveal God’s goodness. Whether you’re a 45-year-old stay-at-home mother, or a 28-year-old medical student, a 68-year-old engineer, or a retired teacher, wherever you are in this moment, you can reveal another aspect of God’s goodness to the world.
Because you have breath in your lungs, God has given you a mission. My prayer for all my students becomes my prayer for you as well: that you may know how much you are loved, how much you are wanted, and how much you are necessary in this world.
- - -
Ali Hoffman is a speaker and an artist at The Oodles of Doodles.
I had been a full-time youth minister for most of the past six years, and as anyone in this field will say, you must love kids a lot.