Freedom To Fail

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 08.00.27Guest Post By Ryan Rudolph. Youth Worker in South Africa, graduate of Oak Hill College and blogger at

I found an old note I made to myself when I first entered seminary in 2006. I was asked to write down the following question:

“If I weren’t paid to do youth ministry, would I still do it?”

At that time I wasn’t being paid. I had a dream of being a paid for, “successful” youth pastor. My dreams back then were terribly flawed, self-centred and misplaced. Sure, I wanted to “serve” God, and I wanted to make His kingdom great, but I wanted to be an important factor in all that. I didn’t, therefore, like the aforementioned question very much.

Fast forward 9 years, 3 youth ministry positions in very different contexts on two different continents – I now LOVE that question. I often “dream” in fact, of attempting to do youth ministry whilst holding down a ‘normal’ job. Hear me out.

Whilst I recognise the huge benefits of being paid to spend quality time with young people and the ability to plan events and programs, I’ve come to an understanding that “successful” youth ministry – as we traditionally know it – doesn’t necessarily require the church to carve out a paid-for position.

If my church turned around and said to me “Ryan, we’re really sorry, but we just can’t afford to pay you anymore” it would be tough at first. I’m sure I would have some difficult questions to ask them like, “why don’t you take youth ministry seriously enough?” I’d ask myself a tougher question, however: “Am I failure?”

If that were to happen, I would remind myself though of the original question: “Would I still do youth ministry if I weren’t paid?” The answer is yes!

The reason I am so confident in my answer is because I’ve come to believe three things about God and therefore any ministry position that serves Him:

God Saves, God Calls, God Does.

These three beliefs have saved me many nights of feeling like a failure. Let me show you why.

God Saves

Each person God saves is a miracle. I am a miracle of God. God saved me. My utmost priority in life is not what I do, but who I am. By understanding that who I am is based on what God has done for me – saving me, giving me new life, calling me his child, son and friend – I have become far more free in my ability to serve God in ministry.

Dear un-named youth worker,
God knows your name. It is written in the book of life. He saved you first and foremost for himself. You are not here to save the world. That isn’t your destiny. It isn’t even your job. It’s God’s job. He saves. And you, my friend, are a miracle and proof of what God can do in any life. God is Saviour so you are free to fail.

God Calls

Another freeing belief I have found is that God calls every believer to ministry. That means theoretically you should not be alone in what you’re doing.

This isn’t your ministry, it’s God’s ministry, and he calls all His people to be involved in Kingdom ministry.

It also means that you are free to do what God has called to do, therefore let God affirm you, He is all you need. Imagine you’re on Idols or X-Factor. You know you can sing and other people have confirmed your ability by saying “you can sing!” and so you’re pretty confident in your ability. As you enter the competition, however, it becomes apparent that there are others that you now need to seek the approval of, the judges! And let’s be honest, there is only one judge who’s comment really matters. Sure the others might give you good comments, but unless Simon Cowell approves of you, you will never feel like you’ve made it. Every other judge could give you a terrible comment, but if Simon gives you his approval, I’d imagine your confidence would be sky high! If Simon says you can do it, then you really can!

In youth ministry, we have a far greater reason to not feel like failures. God has given you His approval already! And whilst some days are good and other days terrible, you will never be a failure because Jesus, who has saved you, has already approved you! All you need to do is faithfully stick to the One who gives you His approval. God calls so you can be free to do.

God Does

The third freeing belief I have come to understand is that God is busy doing all the time. I’m always amazed that God does awesome stuff despite me!

I remember walking a long and difficult journey with a young person. Everything always seemed hopeless, in every conversation I felt worn down, and I wasn’t even experiencing what that young person was! One Friday I took our youth to an old-school crusade (Do we even use that word anymore?). I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that there was nothing special about this event. There were no cool lights, the music was average sounding and even I struggled to understand the message. The guy literally gave a boring twenty-minute sermon and an altar call. I have no idea what he was trying to say! To my surprise, however, God was busy doing.

A week later this same young person was asking me some pretty deep questions. You see, this student had responded to the altar call. He had more questions. God was doing something incredible in his life. Two weeks after this, he became a Christian. Isn’t God good? I didn’t do any of that! I just got to be present, answer a few questions, and be faithful in praying for this young life in every conversation we had prior.


Free Yourself!

In light of the God who saves, the God who calls and the God who does, ask yourself: “If I weren’t paid to do youth ministry, would I still do it?”

Free yourself. Just be where God wants you to be. Be faithful and watch God WOW you. He does!

God is saviour so you’re free to fail. God Calls so you can be free to do. God Does so you can be free to just be who he’s saved and called you to be.

About Ryan:

IMG-20150717-WA0005Ryan Rudolph is a Youth Pastor in a small city church in East London, South Africa where he enjoys the challenges of multi-cultural, urban youth ministry.

He is married to a beautiful Texan lass, is a Sharks Rugby fan, and enjoys indie-board games and even more so loves introducing these games to some of his Youth!

He holds a BA(Hons) in Youth and Children’s Ministry from Oak Hill Theological College in London, and is currently studying towards a BTH.

Ryan loves young people, loves Jesus and deeply desires to see the two connect in powerful and authentic ways.

He blogs over at

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