Does your ministry lose steam at the end of the year? We all know that finishing well is important, but like a fatigued runner, we often lose our stride a bit at the end of the program calendar.
Now we have a fabulous group of youth workers. They love God, one another, and they really care for our students, most of whom are the entry point to the church for their families. But it is the end of the year and…
- Games become a little less purposeful…and a few kids stop coming.
- Instead of carefully planning the meeting so that all things work together to build Christian community and take kids deeper in their faith, the various components begin to stand alone…and a few more kids drop off.
- Bibles aren’t opened and read by students quite as much.
- Leaders start doing more – more sharing, more preaching. Students start doing less – and passive kids quickly become disengaged kids.
This happens every year in youth groups all across the country.
For us, this came to a head at our end of the year badminton tournament last week. The kid across the street, a young man we have been inviting to youth group for three years, showed up. O, he joins us occasionally for games and food, but he skips out when students go inside for worship through song and scripture…after eating, of course. Last week he handed me a badminton racquet and asked if I would be his partner for the tournament. I am not a youth leader and had a bunch of stuff to do, but one look at his insistent face and I heard myself saying, “I would love to. But if I do, you stay for Bible study.”
“Deal!” He said, sticking his hand out to shake.
Two leaders were standing behind me. The older one had missed the planning meeting. He whispered to the younger one, “What is the Bible study?”
“We are just having fun tonight.” She said.
His reply, “Hey, our core values include ‘don’t waste kid’s time’ and ‘have fun with a purpose.’ A kid we have been inviting for three years just said he would stay for Bible study. You get a song. I’ll do a message.”
In a highly unlikely turn of events, the neighbor and I won the tournament. As the mob tromped from backyard to living room, the neighbor kid proudly paraded the trophy inside over his head.
When the song finished we passed out Bibles and students read the story of Jesus preaching in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:14-30). The older leader retold the story of Jesus angering his home town to the point that they took him to the edge of a cliff to toss him off when he turned around and walked away through the silenced mob. He concluded with Jesus, the God of the universe in human form, whose life, death, and resurrection offering us the opportunity to be a Kingdom bringer (a Luke 4:18 life of bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and letting the oppressed go free“). He asked if anyone who hadn’t yet was ready to have “the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:19) by allowing the Lord, Jesus, to become their savior (John 1:12). Three hands shot up. One of them was the neighbor kid’s. He was waving and pointing to himself. The same young man who ignored three dozen invitations…who snuck home early another two dozen times…who had told us repeatedly, “I’m not into God.” That kid, with tears in his eyes, was smiling ear to ear, waving, and saying, “Me! I’m ready.”
And by letting our core values slip in end of the year fatigue we almost missed it.
“how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” -Romans 10:14, NLT
In track and field finishing well is called having a strong “kick.” Races are won or lost on the final straightaway. Most runners fade. Champions find another gear and shift into it, pulling away from the pack.
The baton we pass is nothing less than the Gospel of Jesus. So end strong friends. Find your kick. Because this race really does matter.