I was walking out of FCA at a local high school on Wednesday morning. As I was heading to the parking lot I passed a number of students rushing in so they wouldn't be marked tardy. Among those students were two guys who used to be faithful attenders at our Student Church. I of course smiled and said "Hey" to them. They had big smiles and said hi to me and and asked me how I was doing. As they each walked away the feeling hit me in the pit of my stomach. It wasn't the blueberry Dunkin Donut I just consumed in FCA. It was the questions.
When you come across a student(s) who you haven't seen in a while at youth group do the questions start rolling through your mind? What do you think when a student walks by you and that student used to be at youth group faithfully every week and went on every event and trip?
I'll be totally transparent. It bugs the heck out of me! I don't like it!
Years ago when moments like this would happen I would start to question everything I was doing in youth ministry, even question if I was fit to be a youth pastor. It would gnaw at me.
You probably ask these same questions:
What am I doing wrong?
What am I not doing?
Does youth group suck because of me?
Am I a terrible leader?
Did I say or do something wrong?
What could I have done to stop this from happening?
The focus becomes self. We start judging ourselves. We think it's about us.
Four things to remember youth worker:
- We are not God.
- We are not the Holy Spirit.
- We are not their parents.
- We cannot force a student to be a disciple, it's their choice.
Watching these students reminds me of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13.
- Some students will hear the gospel but they just won't get it.
- Some students will receive the gospel and be excited but never grow deep roots and they wither.
- Some students will receive the gospel but then the stuff of life pulls them away, priorities get out of whack.
- Some students will receive the gospel and grow and flourish and produce fruit in their lives.
- Keep teaching the Bible, sound Biblical truth and applying it to life today.
- Model a growing, vibrant faith.
- Keep investing in students' lives and building relationships
- Most importantly pray. Pray for our students by name, specific prayers.
- Don't blame yourself when a teen chooses to walk away from their faith or when a parent doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to say, "this is what we do in our home and as a family."
Stay in the trenches. Keep ministering to students. Don't allow Satan to sidetrack you with self doubt about your ability to minister to students.
The bonus is ten years down the road and you run into that teen who is now an adult and a parent and they are actively involved in their church and growing their faith. You never know what is going to stick and then later help them correct their direction in life.