School bus drivers need to have the ability to control a bus and passengers without running into anything. It would be like a teacher facing away from their students while teaching their material. It is challenging to know what is going on at all times. I know as a parent, with my own children, I find I am able to pick out what is going on by the way they are behaving. Parents hear things and see things because they have spies everywhere and eyes in the back of their heads. On the bus all you get is a big mirror, but that involves taking your eyes off the road. Then there is the constant noise level inherent with hanging out with children. I never cared too much about the noise, which I think prepared me for my life as a youth pastor. Noise means life and opportunity.
Youth ministry is controlled chaos. Sometimes it looks like a little more chaos than control, but it always seems to balance out. There are events that don’t go as planned. There are students who decide to test the boundaries, or completely shatter them. There are times when through noise of it all it might be hard to discern whether anything is actually getting through.
Through all the noise, we make connections. There was the time on my bus when Mike, a young man who had a troubled past, got into a fight . When it was almost his turn to get off he came up and I said, “what’s the deal, man?” He proceeded to tell me about the frustrations he was having with his family and how people were just pushing him a bit. Then there was the time when an elementary school girl came to the front and told me that her mom and dad don’t live together anymore and she was very sad. There was another time when two brothers were literally choking each other and I had to go back and assist them. In their case, again, as we unpacked the pile, we found that there was always a reason. The noise was just the cover for something far greater.
Youth ministry follows a similar path. We have loud games, loud music, and loud people. We talk in a loud voice and we always find more to say. We also see students who are looking for attention making a lot of extra noise. If we are paying attention, we can figure out what is going on by simply asking them about it. What an opportunity to make connections with students in some of their most difficult circumstances in order to point them to the cross of Christ.
Relationships are critical. We don’t know everything that is going on, and we don’t need to know everything that is going on. Having the opportunity to share the truth of God’s Word with students is an honor. What amazes me even more is when some time down the road they bring up something that I taught! Yes, they are hearing through the noise. I think we all can hear something in the noise.
This is part of The Sunday Series “My School Bus Youth Ministry.” If you missed others, check out The Sunday Series tab above.