Clearly nervous, her voice wavered to say hello as she gave me an awkward side hug and handed me a gift. She’d driven a hundred miles or so “just to swing by and say hello.” No one drives that far just to eat greasy food and say hello.
After some niceties the reason she drove all the way to our house became clear. She wanted to say thank you.
She hadn’t been particularly faithful to youth group. She was always kind of one foot in and one foot out. In truth, I never really knew why she came. She was always too cool for it. I figured she just came because her friends were there and she felt comfortable.
Since high school graduation she’d gone down some dark roads. But she drove to our house to tell us thank you… and she was back.
I’ve done this a long time. And most students don’t come back to say thanks. You wish them well on the next stage of their life and they ride off into the sunset.
That’s the thing about youth ministry. You’ll never know.
You’ll never know, in the moment, what is sinking in and what isn’t. You’ll never know if the lessons you work so hard to prepare are making a difference. You’ll never know if your ministry introduced them to a lifelong walk with Jesus or if they just kind of held Jesus’ hand through high school. You’ll never know who is going to walk away, who isn’t coming back, and who will come back. You’ll never know if your ministry helped a person become a better parent or soldier or engineer.
Your impact will always surprise you a little bit. The Prodigal will always take your breath away upon their return.
Think about the worlds or moments in your life which had the deepest impact— that truly put you on the right course. Chances are good that person who impacted you will never know their impact on you.
You might not ever get a chance to say thanks. That’s just how life works.
It’s the same thing in youth ministry– You just keep scattering the seed.
Your job is to keep planting seeds of hope, love, and joy found in Christ. Youth ministry can never be judged solely by today’s harvest… It’s just too short of a time with an individual… It has to be judged in the amount of seed spread.
Friends, just keep reaching into the bag and scattering seed.
Because you’ll never know.