This morning I woke up with my usual Wednesday night youth program hangover. It was a long night, but last night felt longer than most because of the news I received. We are in week three of what I call the Disciple Project, three months of fine tuned Wednesdays, and this week was a SERVE week. A SERVE Week is where students choose from several projects such as cooking meals for others, visiting people who have not been in a while, and even having skaters build their own grind box; but it’s what the visitation team reported that had me down and dismayed.
One visit the kids made was to a home of young adults 19-20. They were actually there to see one person but the whole group we had them scheduled to visit were all at one house. Most of these students have been a part of our youth program, on and off, for around four years. Some were on the verge of possibly being leaders, but about four months ago they started changing. I know changes are “normal” for this age group. I know the statistics about kids leaving church etc. but these were our kids. Kids that I help lead to the Lord, walked with them through their pain, and shared some joyous moments with. These people are not statistics, they are hurting and lost kids.
This is not the first time I have faced feelings of powerlessness, overestimated my influence with kids , or put too much stock in “the youth program” to cure what ails the average teen, but it is the most recent. These kids had been to the conventions, the road trips, the lunches, the youth outings, which made it all the more painful that the team that visited them reported that this group were all drinking and smoking pot. High as kites when they showed up. I felt bad that the team that had visited them had to see them like that, but maybe it showed them that “the Church” still cares about lost sheep; that we will leave the 99 to go get the one, even if that one does not come back with us. How powerless it must be for a Shepherd to be unable to bring back the sheep he raised, protected, and fed.
I am working through my own pain, discouragement, and disappointment at these events, but the good news is that I am powerless. I can’t trust that I have somehow done enough in both programming and relationship building to save these kids from terrible choices. I will never be able to do enough, but God is powerful. We sing that He (God) is Mighty To Save, and He is, but, do I believe that He is mighty enough to abandon all my control to Him, forsaking the confines of my own comfortable strategies? If I want to see kids like these be changed by the power of God, I guess I have no choice.
Feeling powerless about your influence in the youth ministry? Tell me about it.