“Do You Love Me More than These?”

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John 21:15-19

Being a youth minister seems like a lot of work. In fact, it is. I’ve heard people compare it to running your own little church with little people. Through my time as a youth minister, I think this is a reasonable statement.

A youth minister is in charge of the spiritual care of those within their ministry. They’re in charge of the youth service on Wednesday or Friday nights. If the church has a separate youth service on Sundays they’re in charge of all parts of that service too: from the pre-service preparation, to the worship, to the offering and announcements, and finally to the sermon. On top of that, they have to plan Bible studies and discipleship throughout the week. All of this doesn’t even include the summer and winter retreats and mission trips, and the more personal matters that tend to arise: from issues with parents and family, to issues with the youth themselves. All of these responsibilities can lead one to feel overly-important and also completely bogged down.

It’s really easy to lose sight of things in the business of the logistics and plans that being a youth minister entails. It’s tempting to sink into the pitfall of being busy with “ministry,” rather than being busy with ministry. Sometimes we don’t even realize it’s happened. But all of the day-to-day busyness distracts us from the true ministry to which we have been called.

In John 21, Jesus approaches Peter after he had denied him three times over the course of the crucifixion. Jesus meets Peter in a place of shame and guilt and cuts straight to his heart. In this moment of supreme vulnerability, Jesus asks Peter a question that points right to the issue at hand. “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” And in a tone that seems almost as if Peter is stating something obvious, he replies, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Then Jesus commands Peter to “Feed my lambs.” Now Jesus asks directly, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter responds with the same answer. Then Jesus replies, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus asks Peter a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” At this point, Peter is grieved to see that Jesus is questioning him a third time on this important matter. He tells Jesus “You know that I love you.” Jesus commands Peter a third time to “Feed my sheep.”

This story is a blessed reminder that our true call to youth ministry comes out of our love for Christ and what he has done for us. But many times our love for Christ gets pushed aside for our need to fulfill all the logistical matters that come up in our response to his call. We continue to tell Jesus that we love him, and yet run with passion as we set up different events and busy ourselves with making sure all the little details are set. We get so distracted by self-importance, and making sure everything is running well on the outside, that we often forget Jesus’ simple call to us as ministers:

“Feed my sheep.”

Let’s not forget who we are called to. Let’s not forget to drop everything when we see that kid sitting alone because he is too shy to get involved. Let’s not forget to take some time to ask our kids how their week was, and then ask the follow-up question of why their week was bad (even though these conversations may deter from our schedule or take time away from our planning or our mind-blowing sermon). Let’s not forget to put in that extra time. We must let our kids open up to us, and then open up to them in turn about who we represent. Let’s not forget to love the Lord by feeding his sheep.

Join us for Rooted 2016, an intimate youth ministry conference, where we will explore the good news that God’s grace is sufficient for our relationships: with ourselves, with others, with the world, and with God. Jesus is our reconciliation yesterday, today, and forever. 

To learn more about gospel centered youth ministry, check out more articles and podcasts from Rooted’s youth ministry blog.

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