In sports, a slump is an extended period of time when a player isn’t performing up to their usual level or expectations. As a youth leader, I’ve been through some serious slumps that led me to discouragement, disillusionment, and even depression. I kept hearing the enemy’s voice in my head, telling me I was too old or not gifted enough or not equipped—or whatever other “dart of the day” he decided to launch at me. I felt like I was failing in many areas of the ministry and often thought of quitting.
It wasn’t that my ministry approach was bad. Even during those slumps, I was taking students to Dare 2 Share LIVE and Lead the Cause, strategically implementing all 7 Values, spending personal time with Jesus, and working really hard, but I still wasn’t seeing much fruit. Our numbers were down, and our apathy was up. To be honest, I’d been a Gospel Advancing leader for a while and was convinced I was the only one whose youth group wasn’t on fire for God and who wasn’t seeing dozens of teens regularly coming into a relationship with Jesus. What was wrong with me?
In retrospect, God was doing some great things. For example, during one slump, a few students were growing in their love for God’s Word, many leaders were faithfully serving, and my senior pastor was supporting me well. But the slump came after a strong adult leader left in an unhealthy way and a rebellious group of student “leaders” were causing a lot of drama. I was focusing way too much on those negatives and the fallout that happened in their wake.
Here are a few things I wish someone had reminded me of in those days:
- Youth leaders don’t control salvations or students. Sometimes the Holy Spirit does a mighty, visible work—and sometimes He doesn’t. Let Him teach you in both seasons.
- The fruit you see (or don’t see) in the moment doesn’t measure your calling. Jesus didn’t see much fruit during certain times of His ministry either.
- Students are navigating many things, and you often know only a small part of what’s going on in their lives. Love them, lead them, pray for them, and be patient with them.
- The people who support you are often less vocal than the ones who challenge you. Learn to listen the most closely to the voice of God.
- Celebrate and be grateful for anything you can. Have one faithful leader? A decent budget? A couple of students who are trying to share their faith? CELEBRATE!
- Double down on your time with God during the slump, even though you may not be “feeling it.”
- Read Bible verses often that encourage and remind you of His truth, such as these:
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13
“…being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience…” Colossians 1:11
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” Proverbs 3:5
“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.’” Mark 16:15
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
In other words, keep on keeping on. This slump, too, shall pass!