It is not often in youth ministry that you see any kind of fruit. The students you love on are in the stage of life that is between childhood and adulthood. They are growing, whether they like it or not, in many ways. And sometimes you can't tell if their parents taught them something or if they learned it in youth group. You can see if that mature decision was because they are growing up or because they saw you do it.
But there are rare moments when a kid tells you that your love actually made a difference. I'm sentimental by nature. I keep almost every single encouraging card ever mailed to me. I save text messages that make my day. I save emails that warm my heart. (And I read them on bad days.)
The other day, a student told me that my unconditional listening and understanding was me being exactly like the Jesus I was claiming to follow. I was deeply honored (but I didn't cry! I swear!)
Later, I worried that I hadn't said enough. After all, my Jesus loves me, but loves me too much to let me stay the same. Maybe I should have said something more to challenge this student. We were agreeing to disagree on some things, and I was much more interested in listening than talking. Also, he taught me several things, too.
My point is that I wonder if he was right. Was I being like Jesus by being loving and accepting? Or would Jesus have been more challenging?
I cannot know for sure. I just hope I continue to point in the right direction -- the direction of Jesus. I don't think it's helpful to judge. See Matthew 7:1. But I do think love is both accepting and challenging. See Ephesians 4:15.
Like I told this student, I will always believe there is a truth out there. I think it's imperative that I be accepting of everyone no matter where they are in their own understanding of the world. But I pray that I help others go further rather than remain the same. And I hope I point in the direction of Jesus!
How many baptisms did your church have last year? How much does that number matter? How can we examine ourselves when results are people and not numbers?
Click here for an excellent article by youth culture watchdog Walt Mueller on youth ministry and how we are gauging our success.
I've thought for years that far too many "get dunked" to get their "fire insurance" salvation. Nobody wants to go to hell, but not many want to actually serve God, either. As I said in this post in 2005, my brand of evangelism is more concerned with lasting change.
And that means that Mueller's words must be heeded. Conversion brings discipleship, but without discipleship there was not conversion.
So I did a study on prayer and fasting for our students. I thought I'd share it further. Here's the sheet we passed out.
Prayer and Fasting: A Guide
There are a few guiding biblical passages that are important as you fast and pray.
2 Samuel 12:22-23 David replied, “I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.’
2 Chronicles 20:3 Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting.
Esther 4:16 Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for the three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king.
Matthew 6: 16-18 [Jesus said,] “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
Matthew 9:15 But some day the groom [Jesus] will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. [Jesus was assuming we would start fasting after he went back to heaven!]
Do’s and Don’ts
Do… fast from food and pray when you would normally eat.
Don’t… use fasting to lose weight.
Do… drink water or juice while you fast.
Don’t… get dehydrated!
Do… talk to your parents about what you’re doing.
Don’t… brag about fasting to seem spiritual to others.
Do… start small and begin to fast from only one meal at first; then begin to fast for more meals at a time.
Don’t… try a forty-day fast unless you’ve been fasting regularly for awhile.
Don’t… neglect this important part of your Christian life.