Immanueling: Your New Favorite Verb

Like most youth workers, the season of COVID youth ministry was a weird one for me. In some ways, I found myself growing as a youth pastor as I learned new ways to innovate in an attempt to keep students connected. But in other ways, I spent that core 15-month period putting work on the back shelf and investing more in my family. I was a very present father during COVID! I was a phenomenal husband during COVID! I was a highly invested curriculum developer during COVID! But, honestly? I was just an okay youth pastor during COVID.

And in the aftermath of essentially having a year-plus of less-than-satisfactory connection with my students, I have found myself slow to reengage. There have been so many aspects of the youth ministry to relaunch and resystematize and reinvigorate, the actual relational reconnection piece has fallen by the wayside. It’s like…despite feeling that one of the most difficult parts of COVID was the lack of relational presence with students, since our church’s reopening I have found myself lacking in my relational presence with students.

 Maybe you resonate.

I think that’s why this is perhaps the most important Christmas season for youth workers in recent memory. This Christmas season, I think there’s an opportunity for Jesus to re-instill in us something that some of us have unintentionally forgotten in the aftermath of isolation. And that’s that…

Little 6lb 8oz baby Jesus came to be Immanuel—God with us.

He came to be present. It mattered to the Triune God that He be present with us. He didn’t have to do that. He could have sent Jesus to die for our sins without Jesus walking around living a human life for 33 years first. But when God mapped out the plan for the redemption of humanity through the death and resurrection of His Son, He intentionally put “presence” high on the priority list.

It was important to Jesus to be present WITH humanity as He carried out His mission FOR humanity.

And I just think that has implications for you and me as youth workers.

So as we close out 2021 and enter into a new year, let’s begin to lean into a gospel-focused perspective on what it is to shepherd students. Systems matter. Metrics are important. We’ve got to get our programs right.

But that 8th grade boy has a story, and there needs to be an adult who knows it.

There is context to that 10th grade girl’s behavior, and she might need your presence far more than your correction.

As much as you want that group of seniors to take leadership positions in your ministry, they need to know you care about each of them individually more than you care about their influence on the younger kids.

So ponder this aspect of Jesus this Christmas season, and reflect on what the implications might be for your ministry work. What might it look like to become immanueling youth pastors?

Share your ideas in the comments below!

Mike Haynes is a full-time youth pastor and the creator of G Shades Youth Ministry Curriculum. Feel free to reach out to Mike anytime over email at
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