Youth ministers often worry about what teenagers think of them. Recognizing this tendency in myself was enough to scare me into a stern argument with God about whether this form of ministry really had my name on it. I knew that God would not call me to relive, day in and day out, the gut-wrenching anxiety that high school cafeterias are famous for. Yet here I am, spending my days with teenagers and considering their opinions of me. I know the fine line youth ministers must walk when it comes to gaining a teenager’s trust and respect. I must be cool enough without trying too hard, open enough while being more of a leader than a friend. If I don’t maintain some rapport with them, then I risk my opportunity to minister at all. Right?
Yet when I read Mark 1, I wonder what rapport John has with the people of Judea. He lives in the wilderness, wears furs, and eats honey. What do those he’s trying to reach think of him? Does he worry that his oddness will cost him ministry opportunities? One thing the text makes clear is that John is more concerned with what people think about the One who is to come than what they think of him.
Teenagers most value honesty and transparency. Youth can see right through you, which is a little intimidating for many of us. But John has those qualities down. He’s nothing if not honest. John doesn’t claim to be more important than he is. He’s not preaching for fame or praise. Pointing people to Jesus is his purpose. That would resonate with my youth. I can see them showing this wild man, this devoted baptizer, some deep respect.
In what ways do you put concern for your own appearance above the call to point to Jesus in all you say and do?
Creator God, you make us in your image. Yet we feel self-conscious day in and day out. Help us to serve you confidently, knowing that you have made us well and have equipped us powerfully. Give us the confidence we need to get ourselves out of the way so we can point to you. Amen.