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Can You Pass the Timothy Test?

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier
Can you pass the Timothy test of life, that will be a hard as a math test

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.  2 Timothy 4:5

Toward the end of the apostle Paul’s final letter, he gave his protégé Timothy four challenges. I’ve come to nickname these challenges the “Timothy Test,” and they’re essential to effective ministry, especially youth ministry.

As you answer each of these questions, give yourself a grade from 1 to 5 (1 being a hard no and 5 being an enthusiastic yes).

1. Are you calmly facing the stresses of your ministry?

…keep your head in all situations…

These words were written by someone who was about to literally lose his head to Nero’s executioner. But Paul was calm. He knew the sharp blade that awaited him would launch him into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Imagine being Timothy. Imagine the baton of the apostle Paul falling to you. Imagine the stress of trying to manage the legacy of the greatest apostle. Imagine the stress of following up on the many churches Paul had planted and fighting for the truth against the many heretics that had infiltrated the church. I’m sure all these thoughts and more surged through Timothy’s mind as Paul awaited execution. But Paul reminds Timothy to “keep calm and minister.”

What stresses are you facing? Are you overwhelmed by busyness, trying to figure out how to balance all the demands on your time? Are you freaking out because kids aren’t showing up or meeting your expectations? Are you keeping your head in all situations?

2. Are you enduring hardship well?

endure hardship.

The last few years have been full of hardship. Divorce is up. Anxiety is up. Depression is up. Far too many youth leaders have given up. Have you? Or have you doubled down on your commitment to Christ and His Cause of reaching, encouraging, discipling, and unleashing the next generation?

Hardship” is one of those words that means different things in different cultures. Here’s an example of the type of hardship that Paul suffered:

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

2 Corinthians 11:23-29

Maybe your list of hardships would read more like:

I have worked much harder, been called to the senior pastor’s office more frequently, been slandered by angry parents more severely, been exposed to sickness again and again. Five times I received from the executive pastor a warning about missing receipts. Three times the church van broke down on the way to an event; once I was pelted with dodgeballs; I spent a night and a day with middle schoolers who hadn’t taken showers. I have been constantly on the move. I’ve been in danger from homeschool parents, in danger from entitled preacher’s kids, in danger from my fellow staff members, in danger from angry atheists; in danger at camp, in danger on the way to camp, in danger on the way home from camp. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without food (other than Mountain Dew and pizza). Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all my teenagers.

Youth ministry has hardships, especially now. Are you enduring them well?

3. Are you building a Gospel Advancing ministry?

…do the work of an evangelist…

Paul was the ultimate evangelist. Although Timothy was probably wired more as a pastor/shepherd than an evangelist (like most youth pastors), Paul challenged him to do the work of an evangelist. Contrary to popular belief, the number-one job of the evangelist is not evangelism (that’s job #2). The numero-uno job of the evangelist is equipping people to evangelize! Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:11-12:

So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

Paul is challenging Timothy to be a Gospel Advancing leader—someone who shares the Gospel personally and mobilizes others to do the same. Is that what you’re doing with your teenagers? Are you reaching your friends, neighbors, baristas, family members, and complete strangers with the Good News and challenging your teenagers to follow your lead? Are you equipping your teenagers to have Gospel urgency (helping them know why to share their faith), Gospel fluency (training them to know what the Gospel is), and Gospel strategy (showing them how to share the Gospel effectively)?

If not, you’re missing a vital component of effective ministry and not doing the work of an evangelist.

4. Are you doing your job in every area as a youth leader?

…discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Most youth leaders don’t get fired because of immorality, but because of irresponsibility. Most people don’t like keeping track of receipts, going to endless staff meetings, collecting camp waivers, filling out insurance forms, doing their time cards, or sending out updates to parents and teenagers. But, for most youth leaders, these are all part of “discharging all the duties of your ministry.”

Take care of the details so you can take on your mission. Do the grunt work so you can keep doing the good work. Make it to your meetings on time so you can keep making disciples over time.

So, how did you do on the Timothy Test? Are you leaning toward 1 (uh-oh) or 5 (yay)?

Wherever you landed, keep praying and pushing. Youth ministry, done right, is well worth it.

And don’t forget to sign up to be a part of the Gospel Advancing journey if you haven’t already!

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