Max’s* four years in our ministry haven’t been pain-free. He often causes trouble around church and has been sent home from several camps. Max has tried to “be better,” but it never really sticks. We’ve tried everything.
I’d love to tell of Max’s life transformation, but right now that isn’t the reality. Instead, I’m wrestling with teenagers who don’t change… or don’t even want to change. It would be easy to give up and walk away. We’ve cared and shown up. We’ve tried everything. What’s left?
I’m guessing your ministry has a Max or two. At times, you probably think it would be easier to tell them they’re no longer welcome. But if you have the heart of a youth worker, you can’t just cut these kids out of your ministry or life.
What can you do when you’ve tried everything? Consider these three things:
The power of prayer
This is real. I’m convinced that nothing will happen in any of our students’ lives without prayer. At a certain point, I tend to forget that and start spinning the wheel, seeking the one solution to fix these kids. Yet the only thing that will transform them is the Holy Spirit working in their lives and ours.
The power of consistency
Kids who push our buttons wear us down, and with that comes inconsistency. We must maintain boundaries, clearly communicating what’s okay and what isn’t. Then we need to consistently enforce the consequences. But no matter how exhausted or frustrated we get, we also have to be consistent with our grace, always offering a clear path to reconciliation.
The power of potential
Tough students aren’t just tough at church; they usually struggle at home and school, too. Think how it must feel to always be “that kid” and how easy it must be to get stuck there. Who’s reminding these kids they’re loved? Who’s saying, “You’re more than the decisions you make”? As we discipline consistently, we must never stop sharing these kids’ potential. The loudest voice of hope should come from the church.
We may never witness the transformation of some kids we shepherd, but we must press into the power of prayer, consistency, and potential. By doing so, we demonstrate faith that Jesus works in and through us in mysterious ways. In the words of Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up” on these students. I’m not giving up on my Max. Don’t give up on yours, either.
For more about the essential practice of prayer in youth ministry, go to 3 Essential Youth Ministry Prayers.