It’s been an interesting couple of weeks as a youth ministry leader. There was a Sunday school teacher meeting after church while my family was at home in their jammies recovering from influenza. It actually felt like my couch was calling my name.
Wednesday night was youth group during which teenage boys overdosed on sugar and caffeine and decided to throw Oreos at each other, teenage girls dissolved into tears over the strain of twenty first century adolescence and all of its cruelty, and a myriad of leaders, including myself, did their best to share the gospel with all who weren’t relentlessly poking each other and giggling or braiding each other’s hair.
The next Sunday I stood outside my first grade room, coffee in hand, when little Johnny breezed past me telling me, “I threw up last night, but I’m good now!” and during the twenty minutes of a somewhat focused lesson, little Jenny leaned close to ask if there were fruit snacks today and promptly sneezed in my eyeball.
Immediately following first service I grabbed my bag full of lesson plans, fruit snacks and stickers and headed to our large group space where I, who cannot hold a note to save my life or operate anything with an apple on it, would endeavor to figure out the world’s smallest Macbook and dredge up every last drop of the caffeine I just drank to lead the next service of kiddos in their worship time. Complete with singing and dancing. Me. Singing and dancing. Like a crazy person. For Jesus.
Next was a leader meeting for youth group after which my heart broke into hundreds of little pieces for our community’s middle school and high school students who are burdened with such big, adult, worldly, things and a couple of hours praying about those big things after my own house was quiet and before I went to bed.
I know, I know, what’s not to love about youth ministry, right?! I mean, it’s really a dream service opportunity.
It made me wonder….
If I knew a few years ago (when that sly youth ministry director told me I’d be great with sixth grade girls) what I know now, would I still have jumped in? A million times, yes. Because it turns out that my God has an incredible sense of humor.
Why? Because me, the serious, sarcastic, practical and efficient one that loves schedules, order, reading and writing and cups of tea with quiet time? The me that dislikes germs, bodily fluids, silliness, messes, wasted time, chaos, noise and… glitter?
That same me has also been given this incredible love for sharing Jesus with young sinners and saints. Incredible joy in walking alongside them as they learn to view the world and themselves through a gospel lens. I love the privilege of rejoicing with them over each of their victories and praying with and for them in their struggles. This me, that Jesus is growing, loves youth ministry. In spite of all of it’s beautiful messiness.
On these harder weeks, I also remember the seeds. Because even on the messiest youth ministry days, there are seeds, right? My Lord just needs to make them grow.
I have also been remembering, as a non believer, dropping Oldest Son off at a new preschool because he had separation issues. That preschool, Noah’s Ark, happened to have smaller class sizes, and was not in a large daycare, but in a quiet Lutheran church. At the time, the Christian curriculum neither drew me, nor repelled me. It just seemed a better fit.
I remember walking in the entrance at pick up time and hearing the piano playing and little voices singing. Some with the appropriate words at the appropriate time and others… not so much. I could relate to the “others”. I remember descending the stairs would always reveal a handful of children sitting on the rug, a helpful helper with at least one cuddly toddler on her lap, a table full of created treasures waiting to go home and be displayed on the refrigerator and sweet grandma-like Mrs. Klopp playing away on that piano. It never failed. There was always one rambunctious kiddo, too restless for the rug, too upset over hurt feelings, or too ready for nap time, pulled up close on that piano bench. And I’ll never, ever, forget hearing that wonderful saint lean down at the completion of a song and whisper close to the wiggling ear, “Jesus loves you, and I do too.”
I don’t know if there were seeds on Noah’s Ark, but I happen to know there were seeds on Bonnie Klopp’s Ark and I thank God that He so loved my children that He placed them on that beloved piano bench and let her plant the seeds their momma didn’t yet know to plant.
Though I often think I’d give anything to have known about the love of my Savior earlier I can’t help but feel so incredibly blessed with the privilege of planting seeds in other young hearts, so they might know Him earlier. And though I may not be anywhere close to our precious, piano playing, craft with glitter making, saint of a seed planter, Mrs. Klopp; I’m so very grateful for her faithfulness in the messiness of youth ministry.
I can almost imagine the harvest from the seeds on the Ark. Can you? Praying that God will help me be faithful in sowing. Even without glitter.