“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.
An evangelist who came to our church when I was a youth would read this verse before he sent us out in cars to bring people to church. He would add a little to the end each time he would say “till my house is full and sloshing over.” It was a long time before I realized that wasn’t part of the actual verse, but the idea has stuck with me.
We are getting ready for Youth VBS. It starts on Sunday and runs through Thursday and it is a whirlwind of activity, singing, and Bible study. There are always a smattering of new people involved and every now and again someone shows up who hasn’t been around before and sticks around for the long haul.
This year I am praying for that and more. I don’t normally put my prayers out into the world. I don’t want to have to explain God if He doesn’t answer, but today I am praying for all of them. I am praying for every last student in our community who is lost. There are a whole bunch of them. If we bring in just a small portion of the people that don’t have a church home we will have to go outside and have our lesson, but I am still praying for all of them. I want the gospel to be presented to lost people. I believe that the gospel, the promise of Jesus, the love of God for us, all of us, is what people need to thrive in this world and to be with God in eternity, so why should I pray for anything less.
Lord, I want all of them.
That is my prayer today, so I am going to head out and get our portable sound system ready so we can move outside if we need to.
The power was out at my house for about 16 hours earlier this week. Sitting there in the dark I started think about how much being in the dark makes everything different. Sitting in the dark makes everything different. Probably the biggest thing for me is how much even small lights can make a room livable. You can go from so dark that you can’t see anything and are bumping your head on things to a room that is navigable with just the smallest amount of light.
We are supposed to be the light, we are supposed to glow where the light meets the dark. The problem is that we spend all of our time in the light and we forget that we are actually able to glow and light up dark places. We think that the light we have is not that big of a deal because we hang out with other lights all of the time, but we forget that there is a whole world of darkness out there that desperately needs the light of Jesus and we are hording it to ourselves.
-You are the light
-There are lots of lights
-Not out there there aren’t. Out there there is only darkness
-But then how will I see where I am going
-You are the light
-But I am only a small one
-Not out there you aren’t. Out there any light will drive back the darkness,
-Really?…I’ve lived in the light so long I have forgotten the dark
-That is why you must go. Here, that light is small,but out there the light you have will grow and grow and grow until it drives away yet another domain of darkness.
-What happens then?
-Then you will stand beside a youngling who feels like she has no light and tell her to go out and SHINE and one by one, person by person, we will push back against the darkness with the true light of the world.
So about a month ago I got a new computer and I had so much fun getting it up and running with all of my programs. There is something cool about having a new clean computer that you can add things to. It is an easy way to clean out things you don’t need and you it is almost therapeutic to organize all of the windows and menus just the way that you like them.
But when that same computer had a fatal crash yesterday and I had to reinstall windows I didn’t enjoy myself anywhere near as much. The work was the same, the steps the same, but something about the fact that I had already done it before made me not want to do it again. There is something fun about new work and something terrible about repeat work.
I think that is why sometimes it is hard being a youth pastor because it seems like you are continually doing the same work over and over again. For one things the work never stops. There will always be another Wednesday, another Sunday, another event, another party, camp, retreat, whatever. Add to that the constant turnover of students, who spend just a moment in your group and then graduate to other areas of ministry and it seems like every so often we are starting over again from scratch and have to go back and do all of the same things again.
I think that is one of the reasons why it so easy to get burned out as a youth pastor, or any pastor really because it seems like we are just tilling the same soil over and over again.
This is the part of one of these posts where I should say something that is uplifting and that will help you to deal when you walk through these times, but honestly, I have spent the day installing programs and setting preferences that I just set a few weeks ago and I am tired of doing the same work again and again.
I heard something really neat yesterday in church. The pastor said that we don’t come to celebrate Christmas because Jesus is born (as in he just came into being). We celebrate Jesus because the God who always was becomes incarnate. God becomes man and that is well worth celebrating.
As we come together at Christmas we remember that God becomes like us so that we can know him and so that he can provide the way for us to connect with God through the cross. Let’s celebrate the incarnation today!
It is always amazing to look at a canyon or a river bed and see how water running over time can even shape stone. A steady persistent drip of water can do more to reshape rock than a fast short torrent.
I am trying to remember this truth also applies to youth ministry.
Lately I have been working with a group of middle school students in an after school program. I am trying to use board games as a way to open up conversations with them and it is working, well sort of. What I think is working more than the games is the fact that I am there week after week. As I have been just simply hanging out with them I have been able to be there in the middle of all of the crazy stuff in their life. It has been a great reminder of how important it is just to be present with students.
As a youth pastor I have a tendency to get wrapped up in the lessons and the activities and all of the stuff that goes into just keeping thing going from week to week. What doing this group has reminded me that youth (especially the younger ones) are looking for adults to give be present in their lives. They need caring adults who are willing to listen and willing to speak truth to them. As youth pastors that is what we called to do as much as anything else. We are called to be present in the lives of students.
It doesn’t always produce immediate results, but it is a slow steady progress that can soften even the hardest heart of stone.