The other day a good portion of my time was at the wedding of one of my former youth ministry students. J*’s a good guy, I’ve known him for a great deal and I’ve spent as well as invested time on him for nearly as long as I’ve been doing youth ministry.
I was the only leader present at his wedding, the only one who was able to reminisce of times gone by since he was in Jr. High. There were plenty of friends and family gathered, to which I was at the table where most of his friends were. To which everyone of those young men and women (with the exception of 1) at our table were my youth ministry students.
J*’s best friend B* was the best man, he and I go back to my early days of youth ministry as well, but our relationship isn’t based on the fact that I simply chilled with them on Sunday mornings and Sunday nights, I invested time into both of them by way of other means…
I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but J* and B*, God and I, ALL of us have been through a lot together; from random trips to a Russian Charismatic church I attended in my early college years, playing more Halo than I care to , Wendy runs, Bible studies, “Formal Basketball”, etc.
When I left for another college it kinda broke my heart (as well as theirs) that I could no longer invest on a regular basis to these guys; we had email and phone calls, and MySpace but it certainly doesn’t replace interpersonal time invested. I also found it kinda sad that when I would ask them who are their favorite leaders they would first mention the woman who was at one time the official youth minister for them and then me, this is just to say that the ones they connected most with in the context of youth group were ones who were no longer there.
Comm(unity) for us hasn’t been all peaches and cream, there have been times where either as a group or myself mentoring to them one-on-one…truth to what’s really going on comes out, and you know what? That isn’t possible unless time invested occurs.
There have been a lot of youth ministry leaders who have spent time in J* and B*’s lives but I was the only one present, and I know it comes down to that I stepped outside of the designated “youth group time” and invested MORE into their lives. Granted I cannot do this with everyone of my students past and present, but I think that with a sizable youth group with a large group of leaders this can be done better.
I’m not done with investing MORE time in the lives of my youth ministry students, I already recognize that while I might never have the money I will always have the time for them. Granted I know it’s gonna be reworked in my married/wife-and-kids days because time with them will have to take precedence because it really won’t go over with my wife and kids if I’m talking as well as living out of 2 sides of my mouth.
Let it be said that I don’t invest in students because I’m expecting something out of them, I’m doing this because I recognize that a good portion of the people who have helped me (and continue to help me) get where I am today are ones who have spent as well as invested their time in me. In the context of youth ministry my main goal is to love on others and share the Gospel message with my students, and it definitely comes from a place of “preach[ing] the Gospel at all times and when necessary us[ing] words.” God willing I help to teach and instill in my students who God is and to help them take ownership in their spiritual development and make it their own.
In this technology age it is easy to connect and reconnect with my students, but it has made it harder to do this in real life. I’m getting better at this than when I first started out and with summer approaching (apart from balancing out work and etc.) real life comm(unity) is very possible and I can’t wait.