Fearless Questions

Following our Questions to Freedom

Youth Worker Warning Lights

Do you remember that car you really loved?  It wasn’t brand new…wasn’t particularly impressive…but it just had a vibe you fell in love with.  You knew all of it’s idiosyncrasies well…the paint scraped off the rear bumper, the passenger door that only opens from the inside, the check engine light that was permanently on, and the occasional clanging noise coming from some unidentified region of the vehicle.
You even smile when others notice the awkward orange stain on the passenger seat, because it reminds you of the spontaneous Taco Bell drive-thru food fight with your friends that put it there.

These little things are what make it yours.  An emotional connection birthed in a series of unexpected automotive tattoos on your soul’s memory.

Some might mock your car…but your real friends have come to love and appreciate it in much the same way you do.

If you haven’t owned one, you’ve at least had a friend that did. 

And it’s awesome.

But there is a problem…and it’s that warning light still glowing on your dashboard.

Left unattended…that lovable jalopy of a car you own will be only a memory you hold while looking out the bus window you now take to your new job.

If you are a youth worker, I’d like to share a warning light that I’ve come to see in myself and other youth workers along the journey that perhaps you too might recognize.

When you first jumped into ministry, things weren’t perfect in your life, but there was one thing you knew above all else…God loved you.  It really was that simple.  You had encountered Jesus Christ…a Savior who saw you for everything that you were and everything that you were not…and He still loved you.  You were captivated…and you had to share it with others.  This was good news!

It was this reservoir of soul-knowing that you ministered from.  A deeply personal experience that you were willing to open yourself to others and share.

And it felt good and meaningful.

And then one day…

…when you were tired…

…when a majority of the students you served skipped your event for something else…

…when you had a second job that you didn’t really want to be at…

…you found yourself on the way to meet with students and wondering if this was worth it…

…wondering why you were doing it…

…and then you gussied up your discipline and made it happen.

Surprisingly, in that moment of forced youth ministry you actually enjoyed your time with those students.  Perhaps there was even an unexpected story shared that brought attention back to the life in front of you…shocking your soul awake with the crisp breeze of refreshing honesty between friends.

It’s a warning light.


How can an unexpected, but powerful moment of youth ministry be a warning light?

[I know the metaphor breaks down at some point (no pun intended), but follow me here.]

In the same way a vehicle with a check engine light on will still run for a while longer, a youth worker who experiences these moments of serving from a place of emptiness will be able to operate as a youth worker for a decent period of time.  In both situations…you really don’t know how long it will take for the car or person to breakdown, but you can be fairly certain the breakdown is coming.  You can also be sure that even if the car or person is still working, the experience is more labored than when functioning properly.

In college my brother had an older car whose engine would regularly make loud and (to me as a non-mechanic) rather unsettling noises.  When asking him about the noises his reply was “I can fix that” and promptly turned up the radio to drown out the engine noise. 

I laughed, but then asked about the check engine light that was still shining behind the steering wheel.  “I can fix that too” he replied, while casually sliding his student id card to cover the indicator out of our sight.

Do you feel like your youth ministry life is becoming increasingly marked by moments of doubt and emptiness?  Do you feel yourself hiding your doubts and weariness away from other youth workers or friends in your life?

Is your heart thirsty to remember what it felt like in the beginning?  Those former days when your “cup was running over” and you had something to share with students?

If so…let me encourage you to talk to someone. 

If you have trusted friends in ministry alongside you…talk to them.

If you have a mentor from your first days in ministry or life…talk to them.

If you don’t have anyone that feels safe to talk with…talk to me…or my wife Jodie as well.

Sometimes our souls need safe space to open up.  A place to talk through feelings and experiences that have us confused. 

A place to ask new questions about God we didn’t realize we had before.

I think this is true for everyone in life.  In many cases, life brings other circumstances that makes a counselor a good fit.

But sometimes…and especially for youth workers…we are just looking for someone we can trust with our hearts.  Someone that understands our weariness and confusion is not a denial of Christ or a desire to walk away, but simply a hunger to live more fully alive in ways we thought He said were possible.

Will you be ok if you don’t stop and pay attention to the warning light? 

For a little while….maybe. 

But you weren’t made to carry this burden. And you especially weren’t made to carry this burden alone. 

Why not talk to someone today?

About Jeff Blackburn

Jeff Blackburn is a Spiritual Coach and passionate Truth-Seeker. An alumnus of Oxford University, Jeff is someone who advocates for Freedom and Fullness of Life for All. He believes Jesus offers good news for people everywhere today…not just eternity. Jeff is the Executive Director of Fearless Questions, Inc. and has spent the past 20 years working with people searching for God.

3 Replies

  1. Kathy hern

    There are those times it’s easy to forget and difficult to remember….I now remember. Thank you!

  2. LBlackburn

    You are a gifted writer. I appreciate your wisdom and insights.

    1. Jeff Blackburn

      Thank you. That’s very kind of you to say.