As another youth group meeting comes to a close, I find myself alone to ponder all that took place. Each gathering has in it a lot of encouraging parts and just as many discouraging parts. We have had weeks where students have shown up literally having come from the wake of a friend of theirs who committed suicide. We have had students bring their atheist friends only to stir up more conflict as a result. We have had random people show up and never return for any number of reasons. Sometimes the group is excited to worship God together. At other times they seem rather slow to raise their voices in praise. Some weeks the message is delivered and no one seems to care either way. Other times we have students in whom the Holy Spirit is working and shaping them. How are we to actually measure what we do?
Admittedly I look at the different entertainment areas and realize that I can’t compete. I understand that football games, school dances, movies and the like all have a certain appeal that I will never compete with. This to me is actually freeing because I don’t want to even try to compete with them. I don’t want to lead from hype, smoke and mirrors. I want to teach, without any deception or confusion, God’s Word. However, I have been watching as my own children have started to pay more attention to everything else that is offered around them. My oldest son is doing one wheeling after school on Mondays. All of these options often make me wonder what our purpose for meeting really is.
I try to keep perspective. You see, the worst time to evaluate a ministry is right after an event. The devil is always ready to condemn what just happened and I am tired. Some weeks are better than others, but there is never any reason to despair. Every single time we meet together is an opportunity. Every single person who shows up at any event is there because God is at work in them. There is no disputing that!
I reflect at times about my calling and why God chose me. No, it is not that I want out of it. It is that I find myself to be at the mercy of so many variables that I cannot control. People are complicated. Ministry is tough work and God has placed me right in the middle of it. He has gifted me in the way he has gifted me for the specific purpose He has ordained. I know we all have days where we feel as much love as the NFL replacement referees did. It is those days where we need to stop and appreciate where we have come from and the work God has done.
I know that the ministry we have here is unique. I know that some people would look at what I do and say that it is not relevant, or that I need to play louder music, or take more trips to amusement parks. Everyone has an opinion. Yet, what is God doing and more importantly, what is God saying?
In my mind I recognize a few key moments in the last few years. These moments simply illustrate that God is using our efforts to teach His Word to bear fruit in the lives of students. There was one young man who came with us to retreat a few years ago. He had a dad who was in jail and he would be considered high risk. God brought him to us and he trusted in Christ while there that year. Then there was another student who came to youth group and we slowly began to know him better. Over the course of time his heart softened to Jesus Christ and I got a text from him telling me he was ready to trust Jesus. We met the next day and he was ready to fully trust Christ as Lord of his life. Then there are the many conversations with people about the questions they have, the issues they are facing, or the exciting things they are doing. At certain points in the year I get to show up to a school function, like graduation, to show support for them. That is not high cost, but it is high impact.
It is a reminder for all of us to stay the course. We need to operate within the calling God has planted within us and let the success happen as He arranges it. If you are a business person, a teacher, or a store clerk, we all have a part in God’s story. We don’t need to force it, we just need to trust Him. I know for me in youth ministry, I spend a lot of time praying for individual students because I know them and their families. That does not happen if we don’t have time we regularly meet. So, no matter what your life is about, don’t lose heart because God is not finished yet!
“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” – 2 Corinthians 4:1-2