I can’t sleep.
I keep running the night through my mind, going over the events in youth group and what happened afterwards. One event sticks out in my mind. I ended up spending the rest of the night after youth group with one of my boys (his key broke off in a frozen door lock and he was stranded until his mother got home). He came with me to Pierced, an emergent generation service that I attend at a church here in town. It was neat having him see my world outside of the church I work at.
After Pierced we went to Panda Express for dinner. I have been thinking a lot lately about being intentional in my conversations with students, so I asked him this question, and the following dialogue ensued.
I asked, “Why do you come to youth group?”
“I think it’s important to be involved with a religious group - I don’t go to church anymore, so that is what youth group is to me now.”
“Why do you think it’s important to be involved with a religious group?”
“It helps me attain my religious goals.”
“What are your religious goals?”
After a period of thought, he responded, “To be in the 20%.”
All I could say was, “Good answer.”
A couple of weeks ago I challenged the students with the statistic that 80% of high school students who claim to be Christians walk away from their faith by the end of college. We talked about the why’s, how’s, what to do’s, and all that good stuff. My goal? To encourage the students in a personal desire to be in that 20% - in everything that it entails.
What a perfect answer. What an encouragement! Youth ministry is often a thankless job. I can spend ten hours in preparation for a message, deliver it perfectly, and get zero response from the students. You never have any idea what they’re thinking. You never get the, “Great sermon, pastor Bryan” at the end of youth group. When my vision of success is being faithful with what God has called me to, and that right now being the discipleship of a handful of students on the westside of Colorado Springs, I can never tell how successful or un-successful I am. I can point to a positive growth trend in numbers, but so can the art department at the local high school. There is no correlation between numbers of students in attendance and spiritual growth. I can see the depth of my relationships with the various students in my life, but so can a big brother from the boys and girls club. Again, no correlation. There is really no way to measure the spiritual growth of the students until years down the road. And even then the kicker is that it is the Spirit of God that actually induces the spiritual growth! All I can do is be faithful to get God’s word to their ears. He has to get it to their hearts.
“I want to be in the 20%.” Beautiful, encouraging words.