I have spent years trying to put into the right words why I do youth ministry and why I do it the way I do it. It is hard for me to figure out. I attract a certain kind of kid I think. I may be like the pied piper of dead end kids or something. Or I could be exactly who God is making me to be. My youth group isn't like any I've been to before. There isn't much flashiness to it. The sound system sucks and we don't have a sound guy to make sure things are mixed properly. We meet in a gymnasium of another church, but before that we were in basements, bowling alleys, music halls, Falcon Halls and even in a park. We wander around running a vagrant ministry to vagrant kids. The vast majority of the kids have little to no family to speak of and a good portion of them have been kicked out of school. If I shared their stories with you, you would never believe what some of these kids have been through, things you didn't think really happened in the real world. Things you would see on the news and cringe and shake your head at. We gather them together in a little gym in Wyandotte and work on it. We work hard and progress is slow moving. Our staff is realizing what it means to live in their worlds and go to great lengths to be someone in their lives. But when the smoke clears, we look around and see real progress. Kids loving Jesus in practical ways and sharing it with each other. If we want to gauge whether our ministry is working, meaning God has us right where He wants us, we just watch teenagers living in misery bringing with them more kids living in misery. This means they are seeing hope here. This means Christ is chipping away.
My mom really is one of my models of youth ministry. When we were kids, she bought a big van, mostly held together by duct tape, pulled most of the seats out of it, and used to drive around the streets of River Rouge and Ecorse picking up kids and bringing them to church. She did all of these silly antics to keep them there too. She even resorted to buying a clown suit and acting a fool to make them laugh. The kids rarely had shoes on, and their faces were always dirty, but my mom saw Christ in them, so she chipped away. These were street kids, who were willing to pile into a clown's van and sit inside of a church. To me, that is a pretty amazing feat.
God has gone to great lengths to keep us a humble, grass roots ministry. He has made sure we always had just enough. Nothing more, nothing less. We get by borrowing peoples cars, meeting at their homes, and begging for free help. We are blessed to function this way. Because it reminds us that there was nothing glamorous about what Jesus did when He came here. He took a beating from the religious who hated the people he spent His time with and didn't run a flashy ministry (Unless flashy to you means basically spitting in a blind man's eye and making him see again). Jesus got His hands dirty and didn't need to wow anyone to show people what love really is. I think resources can get in the way of real love. Resources are great to have until you covet them, then they become a hindrance to the point of what we are doing. Get enough resources in student ministry and soon you will have a ministry thats god has become entertainment and sugar coated lollipops. We do what we can to keep the kids excited and their attention on the right place, but in the end, it is about showing them what real love is and how to spread that love out to other people. This is a backbreaking task and runs staff right out of here.
I have to remind myself every so often that what I am doing is what God wants me to do. If I forget that, I will loss my mind and burn up with all of the static from every force pushing against us.
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