We’ve been home from camp for just over a week now. In all accounts it was a great week. Our leaders did an amazing job caring for students. Our students were the most welcoming they’ve been in recent memory. It was great seeing them open up to God through worship, something we don’t see very often in our Sunday mornings.

Something interesting happened to me on our last day of camp and I can’t seem to shake it. Normally, patience with students is something I do pretty well at. After all these years of middle school ministry, you kind of get used to the noise level and chaos of middle schoolers. But as the week went on I had less patience and found myself longing to control my students more. It started small with cabin cleanliness, but then it grew into something I didn’t like seeing in myself. I began to mistake control for discipleship. I was telling kids what to do instead (pretty emphatically) instead of helping them discover what God was calling them to on their own. When these conversations happened, I saw the difference in my students’ countenance. They didn’t feel loved, they felt used and controlled.

The pace of this summer and some personal things have left me drained and fatigued. I’m coming to the conclusion that my control issue comes from that fatigue. I’ve been running this summer not on the Spirit, but on my own energy. When I do that I default into my fleshly methods of life change. These include controlling kids and ordering them instead of leading/guiding.

My summer isn’t over, I’ve got about another month of craziness. I am realizing that I need to find my way again back into the arms of Jesus, to rest in Him and trust Him. What I need isn’t more sleep or a vacation, it’s less doing and more listening. When I seek to control my students, it’s a symptom that I believe that I am essentially necessary to their Spiritual growth. This is a dangerous (and wrong) assumption. I need to reorient my heart with a clear understanding that God is God and I am not. This is the cure for my desire to be a controlling youth pastor.

John 15:5 ““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you,you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”