I remember this one kid from student ministry.
He came pretty frequently on Sunday. During his junior and senior year he helped by playing bass in the praise band. He went on most of the trips and special events, and even helped out with some Bible studies at his high school.
But that kid could get flaky.
We didn’t have a big Wednesday night program like other churches in our area. Sometimes he would come, eat with his friends, and then leave for the bigger church down the road. The other church had the lights, the worship, and the high octane youth pastor. We had some volunteers leading a Bible study. Low octane for sure.
I had to pull him aside a few times when he did show for Wednesday night stuff.
He and some of the other kids had a habit of trying to get out of the Bible study by hiding in the resource closet or playing out on the playground and no coming in when it was time to get started.
As far as relationships, I saw him bring several girls to the church every so often. But then he would disappear to whatever church they went to as well.
I felt like I was losing him to his girlfriends or the bigger churches down the road.
We talked about changing some of the things we did at our church, but I knew it wasn’t the time to change. We were doing what we were good at with our ministry. Even though he talked about it several times, we just couldn’t make it happen.
He was an alright kid, I just wish he had been a little more committed to his own youth group rather than going to church all over town, chasing girls or the flashiest new ministry. I heard he became a youth pastor. And actually, he is me.* Hey youth workers: sometimes you won’t have kids attend your church because they’re attending someone else’s service. Are you going to be mad and frustrated, or are you going to be thankful that they are continuing their journey with Christ?
Sometimes, the students you think aren’t all that committed to your ministry might turn out to be committed followers of Jesus in their adult life. Don’t think what you see from a student in your ministry is their whole story. God is still at work in them.
And some of them might even become youth workers themselves.
Questions for you as a youth pastor:
- What are you doing to teach the students you have when you have them?
- Are you allowing yourself to become bitter and distracted when “your” kids aren’t around because they’re attending another church?
- How are you encouraging your students to walk with God, even if it means they aren’t walking with you?
*Disclaimer – These are thoughts I know my youth pastor didn’t necessarily have about me. We’ve talked about my flakiness during my high school career and we’re cool. Well, she’s cool. I’m still trying to be.