Several years back, I had to tell a young lady that she couldn’t be on Core Team. It’s never fun to have to let a volunteer go. In my time in ministry, I have had to let go of many volunteers, for everything from being denied in the background check to them wanting to date a teen. This particular instance was the hardest, emotionally. I knew the young lady and she had many great qualities that could have benefited our ministry. She had gone through our Diocesan Background check and was given an “all clear.” She was excited about the prospect of being on Core and I was excited to have her on Core.
About two weeks after her joining, I got a phone call from someone in the community who made me cautioned me about things going on in this young ladies life. There was nothing that would “prevent” her from working with young people; however, there were concerns about decisions that had been made in her recent past that could be indicative of an unhealthy, broken person.
I went to my pastor, talked it over with him, and we decided that due to the circumstances, she probably shouldn’t be in active ministry. Of course, I was seriously torn on this. I called her and asked her if we could meet, and sick to my stomach, I went into the church and spent most of the day in prayer, asking God for the words. This young lady was dealing with a great deal of hurt in her life and she had been wounded deeply – I didn’t want to wound her more.
The short, she came in to meet with me, I told her about the phone call I received and she confirmed everything that I had been told. She was playing out a difficult hand that life had dealt her. The conversation went better than I expected. I shared with her my fear of adding hurt to her more. I told her that all day God just kept telling me that she needed to be ministered to, before she could minister to others. When I said that, she immediately began to weep.
This young lady was so relieved to hear that someone authentically cared about her. Because of where she was in her life and the wounds that she was dealing with, she was reaching out to her church for help. Unfortunately, many times people get plugged into the world of “volunteerism” when they are seeking healing – we have few options for people outside of high school to be ministered to. This young lady didn’t need to minister to others; she needed a place to be safe and to be loved.
If you stay in ministry long enough you will eventually have to let a leader go or tell someone they can’t, for whatever reason, serve in youth ministry. And no matter how many times you do it, it never gets easier. So here are a few steps to remember when you are faced with that situation:
- Pray – Jesus never did anything without first talking it over with His dad. Spend time telling God about the situation, ask Him what words need to be spoken and then listen for His response.
- Talk it over with you Pastor – He is ultimately responsible for the spiritual well being of your parish – not you. He needs to know about everything that goes on in your ministry. Let him be the final decision in the situation.
- Love – Remember that we are sinners and we are all broken. Jesus never once condemned in the Gospel. But He called sinners out with love. And we are called to do the same.
- Redirect – It may be possible that there is another ministry that person can get involved in other than Youth Ministry. Try to find a place they will fit. Our Church is universal, and everyone is welcomed!
- Encourage – No matter the reason you have to let them go. At some point in time you saw something in them that warranted their involvement. Encourage them to remain close to Jesus and the Church.
- Pray – Before you go your separate ways, make sure to pray with them. Thank God for your time together and ask Him to continue walking and guiding both of you.
Unfortunately, our church offers few opportunities for people, who aren’t in high school, to be ministered to. It is our job, as youth directors and Christians, to love everyone; especially those who may be too broken to volunteer.