So a few weeks ago was the big NFL draft. With the first pick, the 0-16 Detroit Lions selected quarterback Matthew Stafford and gave him a 6-year deal that includes $41.7 million guaranteed—a record amount of guaranteed money for any player—rookie or veteran—in NFL history. The last pick in the draft—selection #256 was South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop. And hundreds of [other] guys [were] sitting around their TVs at 7:30 p.m. [that evening] wanting to hear their names get called, but the call never came.
Every year there’s a lot of hype about the players in the draft. Many of the top picks live up to their hype, but a lot of top picks also end up as busts. A lot of average players end up great. A lot of undrafted guys get into the NFL as free-agents and go on to have solid to outstanding careers. As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover.
It all got me thinking…if you were to look at the kids in our church, or in our neighborhoods, and were asked to choose some of them to be in our youth ministry, who would you choose? Who would be your first pick? Who would be your last pick? Who would you brush off and leave undrafted? Who do you see tremendous potential in? Who do you consider worthy of your investment in terms of time, energy, and resources? Who might be a real surprise if you just gave them a shot? Who do you think is more-or-less a lost cause? Who’s the kid that drives you nuts—the one that doesn’t seem to get it? The one you want to give up on?
Now that you’ve considered these questions, ask yourself: What round do you think the 12 disciples were in? What did Jesus see in them? Why did Jesus pick them? Were they the cream of the crop? Were they just the best available to him?
I was out to lunch a few days ago with Ron, one of my predecessors as youth pastor at my church. Next to him sat a guy named Danny who is about my age. As Danny went to the buffet to get his food, Ron said to me with a smile on his face, “He was that junior high kid that drove me nuts.” He told of the crazy things Danny would do that would make him want to pull his hair out. (I smiled, because in many ways, I was that kid too!) But he also talked about how he saw Danny’s potential and gave him a shot. Today, Danny has a great family and is involved in a tremendous ministry that reaches thousands of students around the world because Ron picked him in the “youth ministry draft” all those years ago.
Here’s the point: Jesus picked you. Jesus believed in you. Jesus still believes in you. And Jesus calls you to turn around and do the same with students. Whether you and I get the kids who are everything we’re looking for, or whether they are simply the kids we have to work with, or even if they’re the ones nobody else wanted, our job is to see their potential, to believe in them, to breathe words of life into them, to give them a shot, to let them disappoint us, to let them surprise us, and most of all, to let them know that we love them no matter what. That is youth ministry!
Kevin Mahaffy, Jr. is a youth pastor in Long Island, New York.