This year’s theme is “The Story/The Stories.” Each week our blog will focus on a story from a youth minister. We hope these stories help inspire you in the great work you are doing, as well as let you know you aren’t alone in the crazy, sweet, often hard to fathom world of youth ministry. This week we are hearing……
The Story of Doubts
Justin Sizemore graduated from Georgetown College, and McAfee School of Theology. He is married to Abby Sizemore. He works at Calvary Baptist in Lexington, KY as a Minister to Students.
Doubt is something that every minister deals with at least once or twice every week in the ministry. Doubt doesn’t just creep up on us, it hits us like a ton of bricks when we least expect it. When doubt hits me, I start to doubt my calling, my worth, and even my own identity in Christ. We all deal with doubt in our own ways. I like to talk it out with my wife and trusted friends. However, doubt hasn’t always been a negative thing for me. One of my worst cases of doubt played a major role in accepting and embracing my calling into youth ministry.
Let me tell you about the youth trip from hell. During my first semester of seminary, I was working for a youth pastor who was pregnant with twins! Because twins present a higher risk pregnancy, the youth minister was not able or allowed to travel. The weekend that the twins were due, there was a youth retreat weekend scheduled with the state fellowship. My wife and I agreed that we would take the students, seeing as how once we got to the retreat, everything would take care of itself, right? That was mistake number one.
My wife, Abby, and I took ten or so students on this fall retreat and we had no idea what we were in for. Our first night should have given us all the clues we needed. The students were not very responsive to us and didn’t want to participate in the opening event. It was like pulling teeth to get everyone into the main room for opening worship. After worship we had small group time to go over the rest of the events for the weekend and that too was a difficult task. By bed time, I was wondering why I had taken the job and why in the world had these students come on this trip.
I remember that first night I talked to my friend Adam who is a youth minister and had brought his group to the same retreat. I told Adam about how awful the first night went and he was so great in encouraging me to stick it out. I was ready to run y’all.
Our only full day of the retreat was one I would like to forget. I spent most of the day chasing down a group of boys who didn’t go to their breakout sessions. I had to call parents about a bullying incident that took place in the cabin. And the whole group wanted nothing to do with the evening sessions. I was doubting my leadership skills, my call to any ministry, and I was also doubting my job. I wanted to quit right then and there.
I remember the drive home being extremely quiet. We were only about an hour away, so thankfully the drive went by quickly. When we got back to the church, everyone exited the bus, grabbed their stuff, and left. No hugs, no long goodbyes, no signs that anything fun happened over the weekend at all. I was quick to get out of the church parking lot myself. Abby and I let all our frustrations out on the way home and I am pretty sure we stopped for very large sums of ice cream before going home.
In the weeks that followed that retreat, I decided I wasn’t going to resign from the church I was working for. I decided that I wanted to find out what in the world was going on for that trip to be so horrible. Shortly after the retreat, the youth minister I was working for resigned. When her resignation came, the youth let down their walls. There had been a lot of angst towards the former youth minister and the students unfortunately took that out on me and Abby during the retreat.
Two months after the youth trip from hell, I took that same group of students on a winter retreat to Gatlinburg. We all stayed in the same cabin and spent almost every second of every day together. A lot of healing took place in that cabin, and at the end, my doubts about ministry and even my job at the time were silenced.
Had it not been for the youth trip from hell, I am not sure I would be at my current church. I was convinced I wanted to be a senior pastor and that I wanted nothing to do with youth ministry. But I look back on that trip as a turning point in my own calling and as a turning point in the lives of those students. I didn’t want to give up on them because I knew they were great students and I knew that God was calling me to push through my doubts and stick it out. God showed me that I had a heart and a passion for student ministry and for that I will always be thankful.
Doubt can be so powerful in our lives. It can control and dictate everything that we do. But I will always remember that when I felt swallowed up in doubt, God called me to youth ministry. And for that, I give thanks to God.