Every day, trucks go up and down the streets of America picking up discarded items from households. Things that are no longer useful, broken items, stuff we just don’t want anymore. This “junk” gets hauled off and ends up in some landfill never to be seen again. Its easy to do this to our stuff. I love throwing things away and tend to feel a sense of relief as I purge unneeded items.
But what about people? Do we throw them away when they are too broken or we have no use for them?
Of course, we are going to say an emphatic “NO” to that question, but unfortunately I have seen the opposite to be true. I have seen conversations happening in the youth ministry world about how to handle a difficult student and have been shocked to see advice being given that leads to asking a student to leave a group if they cannot be controlled. In my life, I have a student I am close to who is currently on a downward spiral. To say the teenage years have been difficult is an understatement. He got involved with the church youth group and the youth leader was an adult he trusted. He has special needs and at first this person seemed to get him, but as he started connecting with the wrong crowd and his behavior reflected that, this youth leader made choices (including kicking him out of camp) that have ended up with a young man who is now angry with the church and says he doesn’t believe in God or what the bible says.
Matthew 18:12-14 — “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nice that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish”
Jesus takes people seriously! If we want to do ministry as Jesus did, we can’t kick students out of our ministries. From what the above verses say to me is that we can’t even let them wander off without searching and searching for them until we find them! If a student has needs that you are personally not able to handle…find another adult volunteer to take the student under their wing. If you have a student or students that are special needs, look for a special educator in your congregation to either start volunteering in your group or to just ask advice on how to best meet the students’ needs. God has equipped and given life experiences to each and every one of us so we can in turn minister to others. We all have people that we can uniquely pour into, so there should be no reason that a person should be “thrown away”.
I have been as guilty of this as the next person and am so thankful that God gives second (and thousandth :)) chances. Students need us to step up and be the best reflection of Christ that we can be. Time on this earth is short. We don’t know the impact of our words and actions on another person. I want my moments to count and put a positive footprint on someone’s life.
How have you ministered to the “difficult” students in your group?