That same action occurs when I talk with students about the memories they have of being a part of student ministry. They share stories about activities, camps, late night shenanigans pranking friends. The memories they often have are attached to an activity.
I've been in youth ministry 14 years. I have no clue how many times I've spoken with the messages, small group lessons, one on one conversations, camps, retreats, mission trips or leadership trainings that I've lead. But I do know I've always wanted to speak truth to students for their life & their soul whenever I have the chance. I value being able to point students to the redemptive and transforming message of the cross with every chance I have.
But my experience has shown me that students tend to remember more of what I do than what I say. My life has been observed, my marriage has been scrutinized and my parenting has been inspected. If I wasn't careful 14 years ago when I began student ministry I could have bought the lie that what I do matters more than what I say, but I can't do that. I can't do that because both my actions & my words are valuable.
I have told my team, volunteers, other youth workers and even reminded myself that teenagers will watch close how we live pursuing Jesus and they will match up our actions with what we say about following Jesus.
This past Sunday I made a joke as an illustration in my final message that after 6 years nobody really remembers the messages I've shared. It was simple joke said subtly with the only purpose to trigger a cheap sarcastic chuckle. However a high school junior in the ministry took offense to the joke.
Here is the picture he sent me on Tuesday.
This is a picture of the lessons from Sunday nights & Small groups that I keep by my bed that made a difference in my life. There is more, but this is all I could fit under my bed. I just thought you should know that what you have said has made a difference in my life.Youth workers both how we live & what we say is being watched and listened to by students. We have to be diligent, consistent and remind ourselves often that the Gospel matters.