Finding Faith Apart from Youth Ministry: 
Seeking God with a Co-Dependent Faith


By Sara Clarke

This year some of the teenagers we serve will walk away from church. Studies have shown this often happens, lighting a fire in the church to minister to teens so that if, or when, they decide to walk away, they will have the foundation and faith to find their way back.

Working in youth ministry, we love and support middle school teens so they feel accepted and that they belong. We love and support high school teens so they know we’re here and we support them. We pour years of ourselves into these teens hoping that when they graduate from high school, they will have some semblance of a personal relationship with God to keep them connected to the church, even in their new and independent world apart from home.

This is something I was a major advocate for in the church I served. Let teens deconstruct their faith in a safe and supportive environment so that they can rebuild it as their own. That way their faith will have a deeper and lasting impact when their life transitions and changes.

But what about us? What happens if we–the youth workers–find ourselves disconnected from our faith? Would we be able to find our way back? In an effort to be transparent and a little vulnerable, I’ll share that I’m struggling to find my faith apart from the church I once served. Recently, a phenomenal opportunity for my family led me to this time of transition where I’m no longer working as a full-time youth director. I’m living in a new city, trying to figure out my new role as a stay-at-home mom, and am trying to connect in a local church. Talk about a life change!

For the past couple months my spiritual life has been parched and I’ve felt disconnected from God. I’ve had to do a little soul-searching to reflect on where I am in my relationship with God and what my spiritual life is going to look like apart from youth ministry. What I’ve come to realize is that for the past several years I’ve allowed my faith to become so consumed by the ministry I served that it became dependent on it. Studying the Bible and spending time with God doesn’t come as “naturally” when I don’t have a retreat to plan or a lesson to prepare.

My faith has been stuck in a co-dependent relationship with youth ministry, and I both created and enabled that relationship.

Looking back over the years, I realize I didn’t take the proper time to focus on my own relationship with God apart from the ministry I served. I built my faith around the very things I advised my teens to avoid. Now that I’m no longer working in youth ministry, I have to tear down the facades I once thought were genuine, deep faith, and reconnect with God one on one.

Some of you may need to do the same. As the final days of school approach and your summer ministry kicks into high gear, I encourage you to pause and ask yourself the following:

What am I doing daily to focus on my personal faith, worship, and relationship with God?

Am I connecting with God regularly outside the ministry I serve?

Are my spiritual practices motivated by a ministry to-do list and/or audience? 

Be in prayer about your answers. If change is needed, make it a priority to focus on those changes. Don’t allow your faith to be consumed by your ministry to the point it depends on an experience, a person or group, a place or program, or even a tradition or denomination. God is so much more than the sum of these things.

I wish I had made it a priority to spend time with God one on one when I worked in the church, because now that I’m not, I have to relearn how. For now I’m deconstructing my co-dependent faith so that one day I can rebuild it. It will take time. In fact, it depends on time; time with God. And that’s exactly where we need to start.