Yoda: the true calling of youth ministry

Disclaimer: This post might be too far down the Star Wars Geek Road.  Sorry.  

This is my 20th year of vocational student ministry.  For as much as I love student ministry, one of the highlights of my career has been to spend seasons of my ministry pouring into younger youth workers.  This has been incredible and heartbreaking at the same time.  Over and over, I have noticed this strange rhythm take place, the rhythm of YODA 

I'm not talking about the Episode II Yoda where he kicks butt in an epic light saber fight.  That would be awesome.  I am talking about the broken down, heavy hearted, wise teacher who is not sure if he can open up his heart to dream again, only to have his hopes dashed again.  (How is that for inspiring?)

Here is what I mean:

Here I sit, in Dagobah, in my context loving kids, doing ministry in my small swamp of Christendom.  (I can't truly complain because my swamp also happens to be the most beautiful place on earth, but work with me here.)  This is my home and I am not going anywhere.  I have no more big adventures, no more epic fights.  I am simply a wealth of wisdom who has given up the busyness of ministry for the business of ministry.

Enter the young, idealistic whippersnapper. I love these guys, I love their passion for Jesus and for ministry and for their big dreams of reaching this next generation for Jesus.   In fact, I try my best to spend as much time with these guys as possible to sharpen and shape myself in ministry.  

Every now and then, one of these young guns recognizes that I am Yoda and wants to learn from the awkward old guy.  This is my dream, what God has made me for!  And whenever the invitation is given, I jump in with both feet, pouring my life, generously into the young warrior.

The sexy call interrupts the training.  In Star Wars, Luke has a vision and needs to abandon his training and follow his call to save his friends.  Before he is ready to go, before he is fully equipped, before he knows all the facts, he gets in his plane and leaves Yoda and the swamp behind.  And in the exact same way, these young youth workers who are simply passing through Dagobah, head off to greener pastures, to bigger ministries, to take the little bit of training and wisdom I offered and are ready to battle on their own.  Away they go, and here I stay.  

Dagobah is where I will die.  It is crazy to think about the incredible youth workers that have passed through my little part of the world and who I have had the chance to pour my life into.  It is even more inspiring to watch these young youth workers mature into incredible women and men who have gone on to bigger and better ministry.  I watch and admire from a distance.  I celebrate and dance as I watch how they continue to be faithful to Jesus.  And like Luke, they star in their own movie and kick butt for Jesus in a way that inspires me to continue on in the unique calling God has called me to.  

As these youth workers move on and star in actions films, I am more and more content to live in my swamp, pour my life into those who pass through, so they can do their part in the epic drama known as the expanding of God's Kingdom.

And at the end of the day, when the final curtain closes and the story is recited about the faithful saints and the huge battles won, I will find such joy and contentment in being a floating ghost sitting in the back enjoying the small part I played in the epic development of some incredible saints.  (How is that for mixing metaphors and dancing around heresy?  But you know what I am getting at.)

ONE LAST THING:  While this post is about pouring into younger youth workers, the truth is that all of us as youth workers are Yoda's to our students Luke Skywalkers.  We all live in Dagobah and live in the swamp.  All our students are idealistic and want out of the swamp and will soon leave us behind.  

May we not let our hearts grow weary or hard and the lack of fruit or lack of affirmation from our students.  Rather, may we pour our guts into them, give them all we have so that when they leave they will be ready to tackle whatever comes their way.  And may we recognize that our true place in the gigantic, unfolding drama, is simply to be Yoda, to take up this moment of screen time, to serve well, and to be patient for the the end of the movie where we can enjoy the fruits of our labor.