Updated: Oct 6, 2021
I wonder if you've ever wondered what happened to that youth group member who used to come along, but maybe drifted away over time. Stay in youth ministry long enough and there will be dozens, if not hundreds of them. Jesus reminds us in the Parable of the Growing Seed, that we're not in control of the outcomes. We may not be able to see it, but He's doing the work:
"Jesus also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how."
God is always at work, and sometimes, God is gracious enough to show us what he's been doing, while we have been sleeping.
I tell the story in my book of a girl, who I've called Stephanie. This is how I introduce her, "One of my saddest memories of youth ministry was Stephanie, with whom youth leaders built a good relationship while doing detached work on the streets." I'd always wondered what happened to her. She came on a week-long residential. Stephanie and her friend were way more rebellious than most of the rest of the young people there, who had grown up in church. Still, the leaders cared for them and taught them about Jesus.
Stephanie decided to follow Jesus that week and her behaviour change was astonishing. So much so, that her mum sent us a card the next day to say, 'I don't know what you've done to my daughter, but thank you!'
Sadly, it didn't end there. Stephanie turned up to the local church, where the mum of a regularly-attending teenager made it very clear that Stephanie wasn't welcome. I was devastated when I heard about that. I never really heard from her again, until this week.
I'd tried over the years to find her. This week I managed to find Stephanie on social media and asked her about her faith. She writes: "I’m very much still a Christian and Jesus is in my life," How did that even happen? Jesus never lost hold of her. When I reminded her how the local church behaved 25 years ago, she continues:
"Dave, I didn’t need a building to be close to Jesus - He’s with me wherever I go. Literally, I have the light of Christ in every decision I make and every good deed I do. He’s never left me and I'll never leave Him."
She got it completely right. I assumed Stephanie wasn't keeping the faith, and instead, Jesus had done something remarkable. The seed was growing while I slept.
And Stephanie's friend? The seed is still growing there too. There's another story to be told.
Now, we know there isn't always a happy ending, but let's keep planting the seeds. And when we don't see those young people any more, let's keep having faith and praying for God to grow his kingdom. One day there will be a harvest.
Help keep your Bible focus in youth ministry and read more stories like this in Dave's book: 'Raising the Bar: Nearly everything you need to know about Christian youth ministry'. Buy the book here.
Wondering about planning your next residential? Read Dave's previous blog here.
Photo by kangbch from Pixabay.