Giving Up On Students

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I’ve thought about writing this for a while, but it’s not particularly fun to write about some of my lowest moments as a youth leader. There have been times when youth have given up on our church and our youth group, and I’ve chosen, sometimes consciously and often subconsciously, to give up on them. It’s just so wrong, and along with a prayer of forgiveness, I pray that I learn from these mistakes.

If you’ve been in youth ministry for even a short time, you’ve had some students who were either forced to attend youth group against their will by their parents or chose to attend in order to draw attention by being disruptive.  It’s tempting to be pleased or relieved when these students don’t show up. It’s far easier to throw your energy towards those to eagerly receive your input and efforts. But what opportunity are we missing to touch some hearts that very much need to be touched.

I’ll admit that the more passionate I become about ministry, the less patience I seem to show in situations like this. If you look at your own ministry and your own heart, I’m not asking you to beat yourself up over situations like this…but how do we learn from our failures and improve ourselves and more importantly improve our ability to reach those that are so difficult to reach?

I would love input from others about this.  What do you do to set your heart right when it comes to the youth that have given up on youth ministry or given up on you? 

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I'm sorry no one ever responded to this.

I don't think you should feel bad recognizing where you see growth and enthusiasm and focusing on that area.  When Jesus said, "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces,"  certainly this can include young people as well who have absolutely no interest in hearing what you have to say.

I think the real issue at hand is the whole church has become more focussed on attendance instead of lifechange.  I think we all mourn the loss of a young person who leaves the church.  But i don't think it's your fault that the kid was not interested in being a participant in the youth program.  We should not allow a person to disrupt the group, group time is group time.  I may try to engage more personally over a visit, when focussing on him or her is the whole aim.  But if you're not able to get through to someone who is rejecting the church it's not you they are rejecting and it's not your fault.  You only have so many hours in a week to minister, you can only put so much into one person who is not interested.

I doubt you were truly happy when that kid didn't show up.  More likely you were recognizing that they didn't show up even when their body was there.  You probably pray holes in your knees for these kids, that's not giving up.

God bless you as you continue to discern where your efforts are making a difference and don't beat yourself up when a kid leaves or never really was there.  God is the one who changes lives working in hearts, not our talks and programs, anyways.