I volunteer with the high school ministry at my church. Each Wednesday night I help to lead a small group of high school guys. And each Sunday morning I am one of the adults trying to engage our students in some sort of meaningful conversation.
Journey is of the size where you can successfully go for ages without ever actually talking to someone. And the high school group is much the same. I’d estimate weekly attendance to our weekend experience like this:
- 50% regulars (They come on Sunday and Wednesday nearly every week)
- 25% irregulars (They come on Sunday 1-3 times per month)
- 25% who the heck are you? (They come every 6 weeks or are a one-time visitor)
Journey is also the kind of place where you can grow as much or as little as you’d like as a leader. So we have students in many different areas of responsibility in the church. These are amazing young men and women who will make you turn your head 25 degrees to the right and say, “High schoolers can do that?”
Sunday morning is a expression of two students passing in the night.
- Students for whom Christ is at the center, He is changing them and they are growing fast.
- Students whom are checking out of their relationship with Jesus. As soon as their parents allow them, they’ll not come back.
It’s this sad-hopeful spot in which I sit each Sunday. Both students are on a journey– hopefully towards Christ. One is taking the more direct, obvious and measurable path, while the other is from Missouri, the Show Me State. They may re-engage later in life. But until they have the opportunity to check some things out they aren’t ready to give their lives to this thing.
I can see the unexpressed frustration on both ends of the spectrum. Those who are growing are looking at their peers and thinking, “When are you going to wake up?” And those who are looking to check out are thinking, “Why don’t you just shut up so I can get out of here?” It sometimes gets expressed through passive-aggression but it is most-often unspoken.
But it’s that tension, two students passing in opposite directions, which you can feel in our high school ministry.
Earlier in my ministry career I freaked out about this. I might have thought it was something we could correct. And I certainly would have thought it was something we needed to directly address. But as I’ve gotten a bit older (maybe wiser) I’ve learned that both types of students are on the same spiritual journey. Little I say and do can effect either of the groups. In the end, being loving and supportive and listening and respectful of their story is going to make way more impact.
Question: Do you see this same phenomenon in your ministry? Are you actively addressing it or passively observing it?