My lawn sucks. I have a neighbor whose lawn is beautiful, and makes mine look that much worse. Every year I make the token effort to plant grass seed in the bare spots in my lawn. I rake the area, put down top soil and seed, cover it up and water and hope it grows. It rarely does. Most years, three months after planting the seed, I look out over my lawn and it looks even worse than it did in the spring. Almost nothing has grown, I've got moles and some kind of crazy grass disease.
When I looked at my lawn today, I saw these giant tall areas of grass where three years ago I'd planted grass seed which had finally decided to grow. When it was finally time to grow, it grew really well. For some reason this made me think of Junior High Youth Ministry. I've been working with Junior High Kids in my church's youth group for about twelve years. In that time, I've gotten to know hundreds of kids. I have the pictures pop up on my screen saver of kids from way back and I'm humbled by how many kids I've gotten to know.
I was kicking off a Project 311 youth pastors lunch in front of a group of about 100 youth pastors. What I meant to say was, "You're here because your life was impacted by a youth leader somewhere, and now here you are, impacting the lives of kids." What I instead said was, "You're probably here because as a kid, you were touched by your youth leader, and now hear you are, touching kids yourself." Shinn, Butler, Phil and Tim were all at the front table laughing until they peed themselves.At the end of the day, I'm far from the greatest youth pastor around. I had no idea what I was doing 12 years ago when I began, and I probably have less of an idea today. I'm not in any real capacity today now that we've got a full-time/part-time youth pastor now who does all the real work while I just get to show up and have fun. My mantra to my leaders has always been this:
At the end of the day, the kids in our youth group will remember almost nothing that we tell them. What they will remember is that you liked them, you laughed with them, had fun with them, were interested in them, listened to them and spent time with them, AND that you had an authentic relationship with Jesus that leaked out of you at every turn. At some point they will connect those things when they come to the crossroads in their life at the decision point to follow Jesus and it will play a role."I assume that after the seeds are planted that all of the things I listed above are fertilizer and water, and that I while I may see little blades of grass sprout up, the big growth is coming way down the line. I know that at the end of the day, God is way bigger and smarter than me and he isn't dependent on me, but he'll use me somehow. It helps me not lose heart when I hear about them being involved in all sorts of crazy stuff, because I've seen so many of my kids get through the crazy stuff, and come out on the other side with an amazing, dynamic faith. One that I got to play some small role in.
Maybe Jesus really knew what he was talking about with his whole seed story he told:
A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn't put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled among the weeds and nothing came of it. Some fell on good earth and came up with a flourish, producing a harvest exceeding his wildest dreams. (You can read his explanation of it here)Now if only I could get my grass to look good.