This is the fourth post in a five-part series on Youth Ministry, Boundaries, and Burnout. Be sure to check out the previous posts, Youth Ministry as a Stepping Stone (Fail), Looking at the Population You Serve, and Have a Schedule.

The reality is that our identity is shaped by those around us. There is just no getting around that. Henri Nouwen in his many writings makes the point that Jesus in Mark 1:9-11 had an identity that was shaped by his relationship to his Father. His identity was affirmed in the words of his Father, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Before Jesus did any ministry that we know of…before he performed any miracles…before he healed any people…he was secure in his relationship with his Father. A security based on relationship, not on performance. That formed his identity. That’s what enabled him to be cast into the desert and resist temptation. That’s what enabled him to go out into the country and into towns and do the work of his Father.

Imagine what would have happened if his identity had been shaped by his work and performance, rather than his relationship to his Father.

Unimaginable I know.

In youth ministry we too often place too much value…too much self-worth…too much of our identity in the work we do and the needs we meet in our students we serve. We are often propelled by the affirmation that the need to be needed gives us.

In your work in youth ministry, is your identity based on the relationship you have with God, or is it based on the affirmation you get from students and the job performance you do?

This is an important question to answer because it will determine not only the trajectory of the work you do, but the boundaries you set.