WHEN GOD SHOWS UP
I’m sunburned and exhausted. I am with our youth group for the last night of a youth conference that a church in our area is hosting.
I spent most of the time at the beach with the middle school guys earlier that day. We were swimming in the ocean, throwing the football around, and playing capture the flag. It was a really fun day.
As worship begins, I could feel my body about to break but had high hopes for the evening session.
Little did I know that God would show up in a big way, not only for our students but for me.
After the message, students go to the front, opening themselves up to whatever it is that they need from God at that moment. Just about all our students are upfront—each one experiencing God in a unique way.
A worship song is playing, and I’m immersed in the moment.
I look to my left to see a student hugging a youth leader. She’s having a God moment. In many ways, this youth leader has been like a big sister to this student. And I’m reminded that all the female youth leaders have been big sisters to all the girls in our group. That puts a smile on my face.
Seconds later, I felt the strong and distinct presence of God. I heard a gentle yet firm whisper, “Remember me?”. My heart melts, and the feeling of God’s presence intensifies.
Yes, I do remember… but it’s been a really long time. Honestly, it’s been years.
My family went through a pretty tough season after my wife was hit by a truck going 50mph while on her bike in September of 2019. Then, because of our move to San Diego last summer and COVID, my wife and kids have been going through a lot. Transitioning to a new city is always difficult, separating from family is hard, and not making new friends due to COVID restrictions has made it tough on them.
Despite all that, God is showing up for me right now.
As I soak in the moment, something shifts deep within my soul. My heart comes alive to God in a new and refreshing way.
Although this only lasts for a few seconds, I sense some kind of shift has taken place.
After the encounter, I have a new openness to God and a renewed sense of purpose and passion for youth ministry.
Something I needed more than I realized.
As I take time to process the weekend, I’m reminded how youth ministry is a flow.
Ministry is a flow (a steady and continuous stream) of God’s Word and Spirit through us to the students in our ministry.
It’s so important to posture our hearts and minds to receive from God continually.
When HE is the center of our being, then grace, peace, power, goodness, wisdom, and faithfulness flow.
This experience is the climax of something God has been doing in me for quite some time. In many ways, it’s a return to the beginning.
I took on a leadership role at my church as a young twenty-something. I had such a strong passion for God and seeing Him move in the lives of young people.
The church was growing, God was transforming people’s lives, and I was along for the ride.
I was in awe and wonder at all that I saw God do and was deeply connected to so many wonderful and beautiful people.
We were all doing life together with a sense that God could do anything.
It was my closest experience to the early church in Acts 2.
But somewhere along the way, my passion dwindled. The church underwent a lot of change. Life got in the way.
I went on to serve at other churches throughout the years, but none could compare to those early days.
I eventually transitioned out of full-time ministry and into an earlier version of Ministry to Youth (this website) full-time.
For the next five years, I was the volunteer youth pastor at a small church plant in my community. Then, that season ended, and I took a break from any kind of leadership role at a church for about two years.
I honestly thought I was done with youth ministry. I was very much into resourcing youth ministry leaders, but not so much working directly with young people. I thought my time and come and gone.
But God had other plans. I had this sense that God was stirring something up new within me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
I would even have dreams about being back in youth ministry. Over and over again. But I just couldn’t see that being a reality.
For years, I felt like I was deep in the wilderness, looking for the path. I knew I would eventually find it. But in many ways, I felt lost in the wilderness.
When moving to San Diego a year ago, I started going to a new church in my community.
The church is full of life and vibrancy, and I sense that God is doing something special and unique here.
I knew right away this was the place for me.
In many ways, it is similar to my first church. The church is growing, God is moving, and there is a deep sense of community.
I soon volunteer to help with the youth group.
Shortly after, I realize that God has been preparing me for years to be a part of this youth group. To be in community with this incredible group of volunteers and leaders. To be a part of what God is doing in the lives of these students.
I am finally out of the wilderness and have found the path.
I am finally home!
Nope, I am not the point leader. I’m here to support and serve alongside the two of them. And I’m 100% cool with that.
In many ways, this new season of life reminds me of the early days of ministry.
Growth. Life. Vibrancy. Purpose. Spirit. Jesus. Community. Faith. Love.
And then God showed up for me in such a big way this past weekend.
He breathed life into me in such a powerful way. Like only HE can do.
If you’ve been in youth ministry for a long time, the passion often dwindles. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and just go through the motions. Or you might feel burnt out. You’ve been going too hard, too fast for too long. You’re done. You may even think the best years of ministry are behind you.
But God has your back!
He’s not done with you yet.
Your best years are to come!
Don’t give up hope.
Continue to pursue God.
God is faithful.
He’s continually working out His plan in your life.
You’ll go through different seasons.
Some stages of ministry are amazing and life-giving, and some are dark and soul-crushing.
But that’s just the way it goes.
Seasons of ministry come and go.
When something dies, something else comes to life.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this story.
I hope my journey has been a source of inspiration to you in some way.
– Nick Diliberto, Ministry to Youth
Looking for youth ministry curriculum? Then, check out our…
Exclusive Youth Curriculum – One year of strategic youth ministry totally done for you! 52 teaching lessons, 52 small group lessons, 4 youth group events and 6 training sessions.
SHOP ALL our youth ministry bundles, teaching series & game packs.
23 Replies to “WHEN GOD SHOWS UP”
This helped me. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing your story! Very uplifting!
Thanks Nick. I handed in my letter of resignation last week after 13 years. I feel like it’s time. I am not sure if this is what God wants me to do. Your story gives me hope. I know He has a plan for me. People ask “what are you going to do?” I say “I am not sure He hasn’t told me yet.” My husband is supportive but also says we need my income. I know God will provide.
I took a break from full-time ministry for 1 1/2 years in 2007. It was soooo scary for many reasons. The in between is terrifying. But God came through, as he always does. So, hang in there. God will show you the way.
I just walked a very similar path to the one you are describing. Let me encourage you that God will provide and make a way for you and your family. I thought my situation was impossible but God provided in amazing ways. I know He will do the same for you!
Jane, that’s so cool. God is good!!!
Thank you so much for your story. I have been in some type of youth ministry for 38 years and I was feeling like maybe I’m getting too old for this. Life has thrown some hard balls and health isn’t what it used to be. I cannot fathom anything but youth ministry and I love this ministry. I really needed to hear this today. Again, thank you!!
38 years…. LISA, that is so so so so cool! You are an inspiration to us all. Keep up the great work!
Thank you for this beautiful story. I am at the same point of life that you were in. Youth minister is so full of emotional ups and down. I volunteered at our church 20 years ago to build a Teamkids and youth group at our little church. The hardest thing I have ever done was to step aside and join the search committee for someone to take the youth in a new direction. I am excited for them but sad too. I have promised to be there as a helper as God leads me. I pray that God will lead you and you will experience peace. Please pray for me. Hope
Hope, I can imaging that is really hard to do. Seasons of life… when one season ends, another begins!
Thank you for your encouraging life lesson! I have been there as well too, more recently. The pandemic just seemed to make it worse. But we are emerging now and will go with 0 restrictions soon which will help our group tremendously!
Barrett, that’s so awesome!! Yeah, I think the pandemic seemed to make whatever issues we were facing worse. And it’s so encouraging that everything is now opening up. I sense BIG things coming.
Beautiful testimony, I am a youth pastor and I can relate to your story… I’m seeking God to see what’s his plan is for me I do feel tired, sometimes just going with the flow and I’m asking him to guide me because the youth is in my heart but I always feel inadequate that I don’t have what it takes to help them and I pray that he brings someone more knowledgeable more prepared than me. But with your testimony gives me hope to just keep seeking and wait for Him to guide me where he wants me to be. Thank you!
Martha… one thing that I did not mention in my story was another thing that I felt God speak to me. And it was, “step in”. Meaning, step into the leadership role I have for you. Consider that you are the person to lead students, not someone else. Keep seeking God!
Thank you, Nick. I needed that today.
You’re welcome Jen! I’m so glad you got what you needed. God is amazing!
As I read your heart written out, I saw myself reflected. Your post is not only encouraging but right on time. I needed to read this today. I am extremely grateful that God put this on your heart to share at this time. May God continuously bless and strengthen you.
Vanessa, so glad you read this just at the right time. May God continuously bless and strengthen you as well!
This is so crazy! I have been doing the same thing until last week. I love the Youth Ministry but I think I got burned out but God has been talking to me. He confirmed thats where I’m supposed to be and I am rejuvenated. I just want to make it more fun for the youth while studying the word. Thank you for posting this. Great read!
Tania, so amazing how God is faithful. He continues to chase after us and make HIS calling in our lives known.
God is so amazing! Thanks for sharing your story. Just wanted you to know that when you were walking through your “desert times,” even then your ministry was reaching out to our Club 56 group and summer camps with your curriculum, games, etc. Such great ideas and fun themes. Thank you for your ministry of raising up the next generation of Godly leaders and many blessings for your new adventure!
Nancy, that’s so so so amazing! Wow! BTW, not sure if you know but the first preteen ministry I started and led for nearly 10 years was called, Club 456! So glad I could be a part of what God was/is doing in your ministry!
This is exactly what I am experiencing right now…