There are a lot of things I love about working with students. They are full of life and potential. They are open to spiritual things in ways that adults typically aren’t. They are passionate about their relationship with God. While looking at all the grey on my head and in my beard, you might not believe me, but working with students keeps me young.
However, there is one thing that is really hard to deal with, and it isn’t the mistakes they make or when they let people down. The hard part of student ministry is its transitory nature of it. While lead pastors can enjoy working with families through the many stages of life, student ministry workers only have their students for six to seven years. There are students we may never see again after high school graduation. That is hard. We love these students and pour into them week after week. So, where do we find encouragement in this reality?
• Reunions can happen. Over the past month, I ran into two of my old students at two different Christian conferences. Both of these former students came from one of the first churches that I served at, Eastside Baptist Church of Conway. I sat down at one of the tables at the Called to Lead Conference at Cross Church of Rogers to find Kent Wiles at a table right next to mine. The next week, while at the For the Church Conference at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., I ran into Elissa Cantrell Pitman. It was a joy to see both of them on multiple levels. One, just getting to see your old students is a great joy. I was at Eastside from 1994-1996. Two, finding your former students at a Christian conference is an indication that you had a positive impact on their spiritual journey.
• Friendship can happen. While at Temple Baptist Church in Rogers, two of the students who came through our ministry are now married and have two cute kids. David and Emily McEuen are more than just former students from the youth group. They are friends we love to spend time with. In fact, David now serves as the family pastor at the church where he was a part of my youth ministry. We have some shared interests, and it is always a joy to share a meal or just hang out.
• Their time in youth group is a part of their story. Even if a reunion never happens and graduation is the end of that relationship, you have been a powerful part of their story. You shared in one of the most important phases of their lives and have given them Jesus. They may look back on their time in youth group as just a moment in time, but we want to make those moments count.
We all want to be remembered. We want our students to look back and think about those awesome times they had in youth group. The truth is, they may not even remember your name. However, God will honor your faithfulness. We may just be a part of their story, but our prayer is that they have embraced His Story.