BY DINA GONZALEZ
“Love” is the word engraved on a ring that I wear on my hand. I cannot tell you how many rings I have given away to some of the youth in my youth group, friends, or young people who have chosen to vow to a life a sexual purity until marriage.
But what if the “M-word” does not happen? Can our lives as singles in ministry be effective?
With the population of singles (never married, ages 18 and up) on the rise, growing from 3% in 1900 to 27% in 1996 according to the U.S. Census Report, we are experiencing a birth of new issues that affect the church and its leadership. People are staying single longer and this means that more singles are taking up leadership roles in the church, including key roles in youth ministry.
To all singles who are in youth ministry leadership, here are three challenges that we may be facing:
Understanding “singleness in ministry” as God’s will.
“Don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life” (The Message). What do Paul, Titus, Timothy, Barnabas, Mary, Dorcas, Lydia and Jesus have in common? They were all single and, like many other singles, they played a significant role in the life of the church. Single people have the freedom to dedicate their time, energy and resources to serving the Lord with fewer restrictions. Isn’t that what we all want? God’s will is that we experience His fullness whether single or married. Experiencing God’s fullness is not something reserved only for those who are married. Being single does not mean that we are only “half-complete.” Remember: It is Christ who makes us “whole” (Colossians 2:8-10).
Accountability: To whom am I accountable?
Remember that old saying, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool your MOM.” This phrase acknowledges that our moms know us well, but I can assure you that Father knows us best. God knows our every thought, our every move, our strengths, our weaknesses and yes, even our every need. God’s intimate understanding of us makes Him the prime candidate to whom we can remain accountable on a daily basis.
Beyond the Father, we are also accountable to ourselves. We are responsible to make right and wise choices, not only for the benefit of others, but for our benefit as well. Getting enough rest, paying your debts, changing the oil in your car, etc. are part of an effective ministry. It is easy to get caught up “fixing” the lives of others and forgetting to put our own world in order. Remember that the Savior has already come. We are not Jesus Junior-the Messiah II. However, it is our job to nurture our relationship with God and to fortify our lives with education, healthy habits and quality friends.
Additionally, accountable relationships are key for the successful living of the Christian life. Christian singles are part of a larger body of believers and have a responsibility to that body to grow, to love, to teach, to exhort, and to lift up. I believe that singles need to surround themselves with spiritual warriors who are willing to ask the tough questions: “Hey, how is it really goingon the inside? On a scale of 1-10 (10 being good). Where are you with God and why? Have you been with a member of the opposite sex this week that in any way was compromising? On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your thought life this past week? Have you dressed in a way this week to manipulate members of the opposite sex?” Have you with-held the truth in any way in answering the previous questions?
Remember, God is not interested in our exterior appearance/performance, but He does desire truth in the inner man. Are you surrounded by warriors who have ongoing permission to ask you the tough questions?
Who am I anyway? Who does my character reflect?
“He is my hero!” “I want to be like him!” “Did you see what he did!” “He is the best I have ever seen!” “WOW, what talent!” When I heard these words I was certain that they were speaking about someone who had rescued someone from death, or even someone who had risked his life for a stranger, or maybe even someone who had spent their life for a stranger, or maybe even someone who had spent their life like Mother Teresa, sacrificially serving the poor. To my surprise, those comments were made about a famous sports figure, an athlete who openly admitted to having been sexually active with numerous women.
Our heroes influence who and what we become. Who or what we worship determines our character. When choosing a hero, one should take into consideration the whole of a person’s character, not merely their charisma, skills, popularity, etc. How a person lives, what they believe, who they serve, their morals, values and convictions matter! Jesus Christ is the best example of a man of character. His life here on earth was the perfect example of love, compassion, truth, integrity, loyalty, righteousness, purity, servanthood, maturity, humility, courage, wisdom, self-control, patience, and kindness. In this world of many heroes, we are challenged to model ourselves after Christ and to reflect His character.
What incredible challenges! To understand His will, to be accountable and to reflect His character. I am certain that you will face other challenges as singles in youth ministry leadership, but thanks be to the Lord that we have had great role models. The apostle Paul (one of our role models) summarized his response toward his challenges when he wrote, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
Just one last suggestion from one single leader to another. Find something that symbolizes your commitment to your calling. It might be a cross, a cup or maybe even a ring with “Love” engraved on it.
Dina Gonzalez currently serves as an admissions counselor for Fresno Pacific University. Among other things, she provides encouragement and support for Hispanic students who have left their traditional Hispanic homes to go away to school.