Monday, January 10, 2011

Guest Post: When Should You Give Up On A Student

Being a youth worker can be a lonely job, but through mediums such as twitter and facebook I have been able to connect with quite a few other youth pastors, youth culture experts, social workers and the like.  I met Chris Burke in this way.  The crazy thing is we work for the same organization just on separate side of the country.  As we go through our days we often will find points of intersection from thousands of miles away.  Last week Chris posted that he had an experience that reminded him why he had become a youth worker.  I asked him if he would share that.  He agreed and I am thankful for it.  It is an encouraging story.  Enjoy:

I’ve been in youth ministry for about 8 years now.. and I’ve worked with a LOT of teens over those years.  About 2 years ago I found myself at a crux in my ministry.. I had been pouring a LOT of time and energy into students, and while it seemed like some of them were getting it, there were some that just wouldn’t go any further.  I sat down with my director, and told him that I felt like I had hit a wall.. and that if the ministry in this area was going to fo any further, either the person doing it had to change, or we had to change how it was being done.
The reason I felt this way was simply because I was tired of pouring literally hundreds of hours into particular students, and them just not going any further, be it growing in their relationship with Christ, or they weren’t having a relationship with Christ at all.  I asked many pastors “when do you just give up”.. many of them understood my questions.. it wasn’t that I was done with the kids, I was just tired of not seeing growth, and was ready to give up on particular students.  Everyone told me the same thing.. you should never give up on a student, but, you can change your relationship with them.. but never stop praying for them.
As a result of this, about 1.5 years ago, I changed a relationship with a student.  It was very hard to do.. I had spent 2 years pouring into this student, spending literally every moment that he wasn’t in school with him.. either him hanging out at my office, or at my house with my family.. he would come to the city with me if I was going shopping, or we would just go hang out and walk around together.
Then it happened.. I remember sitting down with him one day and telling him that he was at a point in his highschool career where he had to choose.. “do I give in to all the stereotypes that people are giving him (he was one of the only black kids in the school, and was a group home kid to boot.. so naturally everyone wrote him off as a “bad kid”) .. or he could rise above those stereotypes, and become the person God wanted him to be.  Sadly, he chose to give into all the bad things people were saying about him, and he hit drugs, drinking and every other stereotype that was giving to him.. and he hit them hard.
This was when our relationship changed.. I wanted to try and help him, but he didn’t want help.  So I let him go.. I let him do what he wanted, live the life he thought he needed to live.  It was easily one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.. All the while I prayed for this guy.. daily.. Every now and then I would send him a text, or a quick message on Facebook.. something simple.. “thinking about you” or something like that.
Last night was like any other night.  I was sitting on my computer, and decided to drop a quick message to this student.. pretty simple again.. just “hey, how’s it going.. haven’t talked to you in a long time”…. 2 minutes later, he logged onto facebook chat, and sent me a message.. it was our first contact in over a year.. he simply said “are you home for the next while” I said “yea, I’m just hanging out with my son”.. he then said the thing I was hoping for for the past year… “can I come over, I really need to talk to you about some stuff”.. naturally I invited him over.. and we spent the next 1.5 hours talking about his past year and how he realized that he really messed up his life.. he was tired of all the drugs and what they had done to him, and that his parents are kicking him out.  He wanted to talk to me because he knew that the only way he was going to stay clean was if he surrounded himself with the people who were good influences on him back when his life was clean.. people who would hold him accountable.
Did he decide to follow Jesus.. no, but its all a step in the right direction, I’m so happy that I didn’t give up on him totally, and throw him out.  I think I knew God still had a plan for him, and I wanted to be a part of that.
So let this be a encouragement for you.  Sometimes, students suck.. and they suck the life out of you.. they drain you for everything you have, and then they drop you.. but don’t be discouraged, keep praying for them.. if you don’t, who will?
 To get to know Chris better you can check out his website
blog comments powered by Disqus