by Jason Sansbury
Each spring in my ministry situation we have a confirmation class for middle school students, which means 95% of the kids involved in it are sixth graders. (Pros and cons abound on that situation and deserve a separate article.) In making the list for the class, the children’s minister and I sit down and walk through the names of students in that age group and start working. It is a difficult task at times because we are contacting families who may have moved away from the church, sometimes to the point of not even being Christmas and Easter attendees. Cold calls aren’t my favorite part of the gig at all. But you do it. And here is why.
The last kid on the target list this year was an afterthought. An “Oh yeah, I guess we should maybe try and touch base with them” kind of situation. He hadn’t been seen or heard from in a long time: the family hadn’t attended more than three times in my three years at the church. But I sucked it up and reached out. And as these calls go, you never know. I left the conversation feeling like maybe I was getting the proverbial stiff arm and platitudes to keep me at bay. In short, when the class started I didn’t expect the kid to show. But he did. And he asked lots of questions, expressed some doubts, and basically was as open and honest a seeker as I had seen in a long time. Two weeks in, we did a lesson on the Bible and, recognizing that nearly all the kids in Confirmation haven’t engaged in the Bible very much, we gave them a copy of the One Minute Bible. And we challenged them to jump in.
So the last kid on the list, he did. Jumped in with all his heart. He didn’t miss a day, and just one day showed up at youth group. And hasn’t missed a day since. So fast forward to youth last Wednesday night: we are teaching a series called “Big Time Basics” and this particular lesson is on the Bible. We do some fun mixers and get kids to “agree or disagree” with some statements about the Bible. We do some dialogue about what it means and suddenly that “last kid” gives a five minute talk on what the challenge of reading the Bible every day has meant to him and how much he has grown and how other people should take that challenge. It is strong stuff, full of real truth and emotion. We wrap up youth.
And then the normal line of people who want to talk is much longer than normal. A high schooler asks if we have more of those Bible and turns out, most of the line is there for that. So we give them away.
That last kid. The one I almost didn’t call. The one that I was okay with being a lost sheep, suddenly, he is the one being a shepherd and leading the flock. You never know. So that is why you make those calls. Because the last kid, they matter to God and sometimes He has to remind you of that. And I am so thankful that He does.
We are hearing from numerous youth ministers that during this season their plate is just too full. Caring for others is a ministry staple, but often it comes at the expense of caring for oneself. Self care for the Youth MInister is so important. If you don’t take time for yourself and your own relationship with God, not only will you suffer, but eventually your students will too.
We’ve created a Pandemic Youth Week curriculum bundle that combines elements of both a summer camp and a youth week. Many youth are missing out on both of these due to cancelled camps and trips among other cancelled important events your youth would usually attend. We’ve written this curriculum such that it can be used in person while socially distancing, online, or some combination of both.
Despite all the challenges the pandemic has presented to youth ministries, it has also created an opportunity to allow youth more involvement in worship. Although youth sunday will look very different this year, it is a great opportunity to empower our youth to be leaders. Youth’s comfort and familiarity with technology make them a great resource for churches who are seeking to move their worship services online for the first time.