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February 25, 2008

Is it worth it? You bet!

   I've been leading the student ministries at Emmaus Road church for almost three years now.  We decided when I came in as the interim leader that we would focus all our eggs on the small groups because that is where we felt that God would best work in the lives of kids.  It has been a really awesome journey and I've been able to lead kids to Christ and have some of the most amazing conversations of my life.  The girls side of our ministry is thriving and girls are really understanding community and exploring scripture.  Somehow it is still a struggle though. 

   I'm sure anyone who's been in ministry can relate or even someone who wanted to make a difference in the life of a teenager.  Am I really doing anything to make a change in this kids life?  Is what I am trying to teach them actually sticking?  Do they even care if I show up every week?  The list goes on and on.  So many times, I feel a tugging at my heart to offer more than just small groups.  What about the "crowd" kid who is not really comfortable with a small group yet?  Or possibly the kid who is just exploring this whole Jesus thing for the first time.  Where does that kid fit into these groups?  There are two possible sides to this.  I'll explain.

   First, it's possible that I am simply underestimating the youth of today's culture.  It might be the case that they are totally ready and willing to dive in headfirst and experience what our small groups have to offer.  Maybe I am being too cynical in thinking that most of them probably want something a little more hands-off where they can just get a taste of what it's really like. We just need to push them if they are on the fringes.  One problem there is that we run a huge risk of pushing them away by trying to get them closer.
   The bigger problem with that is that I don't really know what their world is like.  I could be naive and approach youth ministry with a been there, done that kind of attitude but it simply isn't true.  Yes, I've been through a lot and have a lot of life experience to share with students in order to help them make better choices than I made, but a similar experience doesn't mean I know what they are dealing with because it IS different now.  Talk to any high school teacher.  How many times growing up did I hear my mom tell me she knew what I was going through?  The truth is that while I have an idea what these kids are going through, I will never fully understand it.  The breakdown of the family unit and changes in society have forced kids to turn to their peers and forms pseudo family relationships.  There is no way that I would ever be welcomed into that dynamic because it is completely obvious that I am no longer in that stage of life.  I am pushing 30 years old and am married with two kids of my own.  There are some kids who might be willing to let me glimpse into that world but I can never truly be a part of it.  The best I can do is sit at the border where their territory butts up to my territory and keep reaching out as best as I know how!

   The second possibility is that there are dozens if not hundreds of kids in my own small town that might be open to the idea of this Jesus guy.  It might be something they have questions about or have considered in their life at some point.  Those kids might really want to find answers to those questions but I don't think there is much, if anything, in Laramie that allows them the freedom to just "test the waters."  It's all or nothing, and you'd better jump in with both feet because the ship is sinking and we don't have any life preservers left.  You don't have time to be lukewarm because that isn't what a Christian is all about.  I'm here to tell kids that idea is WRONG! It's okay to have questions about God and I want to provide you with a place to ask those questions.  I want you to feel safe coming into a room where you'll know there are loving adults who want to help you on this crazy journey.  I want to tell you anyway possible, "JESUS IS REAL!  HE LOVES YOU MORE THAN YOU CAN EVER UNDERSTAND AND HAS A PLAN FOR YOU!  HE DOESN'T CARE IF YOU'VE MESSED UP, HE'S WAITING WITH OPEN ARMS!"   I want them to know it's about a person and not about a list of rules that they have to live their lives by.

   I wish more than anything I could create the sort of place I dream about in the second possibility.  If that can happen in our small groups, I pray that God gives me a peace about the idea of a large group.  So far, that hasn't happened, but I'm unsure of how to proceed.  I struggle almost every single day with what I am supposed to do to make more of an impact with kids.  Every single time I doubt what I am doing and I ask, "Is it worth it?", God never ceases to respond with a resounding, "YOU BET!"  I will continue to fight this fight and pray that kids lives will be touched, even if I never see the end result.  I'm convinced that time spent waiting on the Lord is not time wasted, so until He tells me to stop dreaming, or makes it possible to have this group, my time will still be well spent.  Whether or not any of this ever happens the way I dream it, it will all have been worth it.  I'm certain of that.