As I start my eighth year of youth ministry, I am struck with a question, “Does it all really matter?”

The time preparing messages, mentoring students, equipping leaders to pour into students, speaking into students’ lives, having fun enjoying life with students, crying with families during the hard times, rejoicing during the good times, and everything in between—I look at all of this and hope that I’m doing everything I can to point students to the heart of Jesus.

My entire adult life has been spent wanting to see teenagers know that their Creator desires to embrace their hearts and give them a life they have never experienced before. And in this, I have to ask a question, “Does it all really matter?” Not because I don’t trust the very intricate working of God’s Spirit in everything around me, but because I am human and need to know that what I have done and am doing is really worth my time, energy, and sacrifice. Because let’s face it, if it is not worth it, I need to be doing something else with my life!

But here is the problem, I can’t answer this question myself and neither can you. We can’t answer the question with clarity. Youth pastors can think, assume, and even look at the lives of students around us to make an “educated guess,” but in the end, we really don’t know.

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So what have I done about it? I went to students. I asked them to be honest, positive or negative, about their experiences and feelings about their involvement in our student ministry. Here are a few responses.

“I’d say ‘yes’— what a youth pastor does with and for his students makes a difference. I think that’s part of what makes this student ministry special. Because when you actually take time to hang out with us at the marketplace or talk to us before and after, it makes students (I should say me) feel more personally connected. I liked the way you said ‘Hi’ to me the first day I came to the youth group. It made me feel welcomed and accepted. Not every pastor does that. Also, I guess I just want to say thanks for asking questions about just what’s going on in my life and my future. I’m sure a lot of students would agree that your simply taking an interest in our activities and goals is very encouraging.” Heather

“Well you made a difference in my life because you actually seemed to care about what I had to say and didn’t just dismiss it as aimless ramblings. You had a general interest in me and that made me start to notice that at least some people might actually think I had something important to say. More recently, you started to pour into me as a leader, helping me realize a potential that would have taken me forever to realize on my own. For the last two years, you have been helping me develop into a leader and recognize my call into youth ministry.” MJ

“You are a wonderful influence in my life. You challenged me spiritually and you are so encouraging in times of need! When I was down, you would just make my day by saying “Hi,” or a high-five or “How are you doing?”—and you meant it! You are so caring, kind, and passionate about your youth ministry. You’ve put your whole heart into what you do. You are a wonderful mentor, friend, and pastor.” Mihaela

Deep within each of us, we need this assurance. We need to know that our lives have meaning. We need to know that what we do is really worth it. I needed to hear it, and you need to hear too. Students may not always jump up and down over everything we do, put together, or challenge them with. But through it all students notice—and it makes a difference. What you do really does matter!

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