Youth Workers are much like Navy Divers. While some youth workers see themselves as Navy Seals, going into fierce firefights, battling all enemies, foreign and domestic, we, in reality are really called to be salvage experts.
Salvage (n) • retrieve or preserve (something) from potential loss or adverse circumstances: From Medieval Latin to save.
Expert (adj). having the knowledge or skill of (one who salvages)
Youth workers focus on the work of Christ. Our abilities to salvage them require us to be well acquainted with two things, the operation of the salvage (God) and the ones being salvaged (teens).
First, we need to be restored to Christ.
Lam. 5:21 Restore us to You, O LORD, that we may be restored; Renew our days as of old,
Youth workers first need to be equipped with the gospel and restored in God’s eyes. They need to be linked and aligned with God’s purposes. There is no way we can be a diver without the ship above us giving us guidance and purpose for our salvage efforts.
Second, we operate in an alien environment.
Eph. 2:12-13 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
We once were living in a world with no hope, much like the ocean where the diver can’t see in front of their own face. Youth culture, where the truth of Christ is often hidden in murky depths require salvage experts skilled in reaching those stuck in those depths and bring them up to the reality of Christ.
Third, we operate hooked into power from above.
Acts 1:8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
Navy Divers are tethered to the ships above them. They require this to help pump air down to them, and for those above to communicate. Youth workers are tethered to above through the Holy Spirit. We are called to reach out into the deeps where we can’t breathe on our own and connect the lost with our source of hope.
Fourth, Salvage experts focus on the broken.
Matt. 9:12-13 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Divers go down, they don’t spend time looking at the fish swimming around, they focus quickly on the purpose for what they are dispatched for. Youth workers are sent down into a specific culture of adolescence to focus on the hurting in their environment and to connect them to the lifeline from above. Knowing there is no time to waste, the youth worker seeks out the hurting.
Finally, We are not the lifter, we connect people to the one who is able to lift
2Pet. 1:19-21 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
We are powerless in and of ourselves to salvage anyone or anything. Redemption and Reconciliation are the province of the God who works through us via the Holy Spirit. We, our efforts apart from the ship we are tethered to, cannot lift adolescents from the depths they are currently lost in to salvation which is from above. Our work is to link the lost with the power above that is able to save them. Our trying to lift them on our own will be fruitless. However, we are tethered to the power that is strong enough to save and our trust in that power will enable us to become expert salvage divers.
“The Youth Worker is not a fighting man, he is a salvage expert. If a youth is lost in culture, he finds them. If they’re sunk in depression, he lifts them up with the Spirit. If the youth worker encounters obstacles, he moves them. If he’s lucky, he will die young at heart, in a nameless church reaching the lost, for that is the closest he’ll ever get to being a hero. Hell, I don’t know why anybody would want to be a Youth Worker ”
— “Youth Workers of Honor*” 2011 – Matt Murphy
*This poem is meant to be androgynous, but putting he or she every time it can be placed, would make this poem unbearable to read 🙂