Lately I have been feeling a little discouraged when it comes to my ministry. Not a big deal, nor is it something I really want to get into here, but I do want to share some God moments I have had over the past week where God clearly showed Himself to me as an encouraging sign that things are happening with our youth.
A week ago I had a parent of one of my teens contact me and asked if I would come over to their house to chaperone a Bible study since both parents were not able to be there. I didn’t think much of it and I was available so I said yes. I assumed this was a CRU or Young Life event where there would be other adults. When I got there, there were a handful of teens from the youth group as well as a bunch I have never met before. The Bible study started and I didn’t see any other “adult leaders”. As I sat and observed, I began to realize that this teen was the initiator of this gathering. She put it all together, invited her friends, and opened up the Bible and shared about her favorite characters! And not only that but some of her references were clearly from things I could tell she learned from our youth group either in small groups or mission trips. This warmed my heart!
A few days later my son came home and told me that he got nominated to a club at school called the Hope Squad. (To learn more about Hope Squad as an organization go HERE.) Anyhow, I learned from my son that this was a group of teens who were nominated by their peers to be a resource at their schools for suicide prevention. The fact that he was nominated by the student body made me a proud father. To know that his peers see him as one they can go to for help, encouragement, and support means a lot to me as a father. Well, it turns out that there was a parent’s meeting that was mandatory and my wife was unavailable, so I had to go. Not that I mind going up to the school since I am a youth pastor but when it involves “mandatory” parent’s meetings it can cause me to grumble just a little bit. So, I get to the meeting and realize that the 40+ teens who were asked to be leaders in the Hope Squad for Loveland High School were all the leading candidates who were nominated by the whole student body. Teachers and the school administration had nothing to do in deciding who was a part of this. The whole student body were supposed to write down 3 teens that they would trust to be a resource that they would feel comfortable talking to if they needed help. While I was beaming with pride that the student body felt that my son was worthy of this, I began to look around the room and discovered that about half the parents there at the meeting were parents of teens from my youth group! The fact that so many teens from our youth group have such great character and empathy that the majority of the student body would nominated them to be a part of the Hope Squad had me walking out of that meeting on a spiritual high! I felt God’s presence as He smiled at me and reminded me that they get it, they are listening, and they are applying what they are learning in small groups and missions.
So fellow youth pastors and youth leaders, don’t get discouraged. It is easy to fall into the mindset of whether or not you are making a difference. You are! It may not be in your timing or the way that you imagine it to play out. But you are making a difference. Live out your faith. Meet them where they are at. Be consistent and persistent.
As an intern back in the ’90’s, my mentor taught me that youth ministry is a “delayed gratification” ministry. In the moment, it is easy to think whether you are making a difference or not. But you have to be patient. All I can do is plant seeds and trust that the Holy Spirit is going to spark life into them. Sometimes it may happen in a moment, but often times it is a process that at times, can go on well beyond high school. Just be consistent. Love the teens entrusted to you. Teach the Bible and live it out for them in your own personal life. May God bless your work!