So I had this kid in my youth group several years ago. Full of potential, but a real pain in the butt. I wished he would get involved in our student ministry. He was always too busy. Sometimes he would participate; those times, he was a pain in the butt.
That kid is now a youth minister. A good one.
I keep a picture on my desk of me and this former student. We met up at a youth conference not long ago; each of us present with our own groups of teenagers. We are friends now. Colleagues.
I never saw that one coming.
I received a note this past week from another former student. This one was a great youth-grouper back in the day; one of my favorites.
Though a favorite of mine, this girl loved to make fun of my age. I was 24 at the time. It didn't matter; I was the "old" guy. Typical for an "old" guy, I was supposedly also a lousy driver. Once, she accused me of almost hitting a helpless pedestrian. (Okay, I earned that one.) This girl never let me forget. I was mocked; ridiculed. "The old guy who can't drive."
The note I received? Turns out this girl-now-mom and mother of two now volunteers to drive teens from her church to camp every summer. This summer she was accused of being old and ridiculed for her poor driving. She just wanted to let me know.
That note is hanging on the wall in front of my desk. It will for a long time.
Two of my former students married ministers. Another went overseas to do mission work. Still another is in seminary, preparing for foreign missions. The student I hear from most often? Probably that girl who came to our group as a "visitor", later to graduate from a Christian University, move back home and volunteer as a small group leader in a local student ministry.
I sometimes wonder if my work makes any difference. Some days, ministry feels like a fruitless and hopeless enterprise. I can't show you the picture that sits on my desk. It's inappropriate to fully disclose the contents of the note hanging on my bulletin board. In their stead, to all who wonder if your ministry will ever bear fruit, I offer this post as an affirmation and encouragement.
Don't give up.