At some point, we have to let go. If they leave our program, we have to let go. When they choose an after school job over our drama team, we have to let go. When they graduate our ministry, we have to let go. When all is said and done, we have to let go and trust the God that helped us find our way.
I worry about my students. It’s a big world with a lot of traps for the young and spiritually immature. I especially worry when they drop out of my programs! Through my years in youth ministry, I’ve watched students choose friends, sports, and jobs over my carefully constructed youth services and programs. I’ve caught myself feeling disappointed in them. What’s unfortunate is that sometimes I’ve let those emotions show. I’ve communicated to them that somehow they’ve let me down—that I’m only interested in them if they participate in what our group has to offer. I deeply regret that mistake!
We must stop communicating a sense of failure to students when they drop out of our programs. It’s not always a negative reflection on their spiritual development. Who knows, maybe our "program" is keeping them from truly developing into what God what’s them to be. Each path is different and God has his own unique way of bringing us to where he wants us. If that’s true then why do we routinely see it as a failure when a graduating student doesn’t choose to go on to "Christian" college or into the ministry? The reality is it’s sometimes very difficult to see the hand of God working in our students. For many of us, our own paths to Christ did not follow a conventional direction. As for me, I stumbled out of high school not really sure what to do next. I clearly felt God’s call but admittedly, I didn’t know what to do with it. I made countless mistakes all along the way as I tried to figure out my next step. If I’m honest, I still can’t figure out how he got me where he wanted me. I just know that he did.
In the end, God’s method of getting us where he wants us is just a plain old mystery. It can’t be put into a box, given a fancy name, packaged with slick graphics and sold at the local Christian book store for 20 bucks. For too long we’ve over simplified the process of following God. "Just pray and ask God. Listen for the answer and then do whatever he says". Sounds simple enough. Try telling that to a middle school student who doesn’t have a clue what "hearing from God" means. What about the high school senior struggling with the whole graduation thing and all the confusing emotions that accompany that period of life? The uncomfortable truth is that following God is a wild, unpredictable adventure like nothing else on earth. It’s not a process that can be taught. It’s a life that must be lived. When all is said and done, God is looking for willing hearts. Not necessarily someone who has mastered our discipleship program! There will be bruises, wounds, and regrets but in the end, he will get them where he wants them to be. He’ll help them find their way.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we shouldn’t teach, guide, and attempt to influence these young lives. What I’m saying is that God is the life changer, not us. At some point, we have to let go. If they leave our program, we have to let go. When they choose an after-school job over our drama team, we have to let go. When they graduate our ministry, we have to let go. When all is said and done, we have to let go and trust the God that helped us find our way. Remember, we’re not called to make addicts to our programs. We’re called to make disciples for the kingdom!