Tonight was our weekly family night when we take time to do a teaching lesson, pray for one another, and spend time together in a focussed way. This evening I whipped out the classic illustration about the power of our words and how once we say things we can’t take them back – toothpaste! I told the girls they were going to compete for $20 cold, hard cash. For added affect I placed the $20 bill right in front of them. I told them that the first one to successfully complete the task would receive the $20. It was a 3-stage race. Stage 1: Open the toothpaste box, put the tube on a paper plate, race to the back fence, return, and sit down. Stage 2: Empty the entire contents of the tube onto the plate. Stage 3: Put all of the toothpaste back into the tube so that it looks like new again. True to their personalities, Claudia was careful, methodical, fairly neat, and asked for things like a toothpick, and that thing you use to squirt juice and gravy into a turkey (no idea what it’s called). Natalia just went nuts and made a mess. After a bit they both confessed it was impossible. They washed up (Natalia left the entire bathroom smelling minty fresh), and then we broke open our Bibles. The girls read several Scriptures about our speech and the power of our words. We talked about how we can practically apply God’s Word to our everyday situations by using our words wisely in order to help people rather than to hurt them, and we prayed for one another. It was a great lesson!
So Saturday was the big NFL draft. With the first pick, the 0-16 Detroit Lions selected quarterback Matthew Stafford and gave him a 6-year deal that includes an NFL-record $41.7 million guaranteed—a record amount of guaranteed money for any player—rookie or veteran—in NFL history. The last pick in the draft—selection #256 was South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop. And hundreds of [other] guys [were] sitting around their TVs at 7:30 p.m. [that evening] wanting to hear their names get called, but the call never came. (Yahoo! Sports)
Every year there is a lot of hype about the players in the draft. Many of the top picks live up to their hype, but a lot of top picks also end up as busts. A lot of average players end up great. A lot of undrafted guys get into the NFL as free-agents and go on to have solid to outstanding careers. As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover.
It all got me thinking … if you were to look at the kids in our church, or in our neighborhoods, and were asked to choose some of them to be in our youth ministry, who would you choose? Who would be your first pick? Who would be your last pick? Who would you brush off and leave undrafted? Who do you see tremendous potential in? Who do you consider worthy of your investment in terms of time, energy, and resources? Who might be a real surprise if you just gave them a shot? Who do you think is more-or-less a lost cause? Who’s the kid that drives you nuts? The one that doesn’t seem to get it? The one you want to give up on?
Now that you’ve considered these questions, ask yourself: What round do you think the 12 disciples were in? What did Jesus see in them? Why did Jesus pick them? Were they the cream of the crop? Were they just the best available to Him?
I was out to lunch a few days ago with Ron Braaten, one of my predecessors as youth pastor at SGT. Next to him sat Danny Burd. As Danny went to the buffet to get his food, Ron said to me with a smile on his face, “He was that junior high kid that drove me nuts.” He told of the crazy things Danny would do that would make him want to pull his hair out. (I smiled, because in many ways, I was that kid too!) But he also talked about how he saw Danny’s potential and gave him a shot. Today, Danny has a great family and is involved in a tremendous ministry that reaches thousands of students around the world because Ron picked him in the “youth ministry draft” all those years ago.
Here’s the point: Jesus picked you. Jesus believed in you. Jesus still believes in you. And Jesus calls you to turn around and do the same with students. Whether you and I get the kids who are everything we’re looking for, or whether they are simply the kids we have to work with, or even if they are the ones nobody else wanted, our job is to see their potential, to believe in them, to breathe words of life into them, to give them a shot, to let them disappoint us, to let them surprise us, and most of all, to let them know that we love them no matter what. That is youth ministry!
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last” (John 15:16).
Last night Ady & I had the joy of attending the 60th birthday party of our good friend Jack Crabtree. Jack has been in youth ministry here on Long Island as the director of Long Island Youth For Christ for over 30 years. At the party were about 200 people from senior citizens to high school students, all there to honor Jack and thank him for his years of faithful ministry. The highlight of the evening was during the program when about 20 folks stood to share how Jack had impacted their lives. Hearing stories of people in their 40’s about bike trips in the 70’s and 80’s that changed their lives, others there who were never directly under Jack’s ministry but married someone who was, people who were under Jack’s ministry and now their kids are under it, people who have been long-time supporters of the ministry through prayer and giving … it was just incredible to see the domino effect of a life well lived for Jesus. As one of the pastors who was facilitating the evening said, most people at a service like this in their honor don’t get to hear about the lives they touched, because they are in a box on the stage. Wow! What a living legacy, and a real treat for Jack to be able to see, on this side of death, a glimpse of the influence he has had for Christ. May we all be so privileged!
Yesterday Ady & I had the privilege of seeing both of our girls involved in ministry. Claudia has been training for a children’s ministry team called Kids in Missions. During the first service this Sunday they had their first ministry engagement, doing worship and dramas for the children in Kids’ Church. Natalia sang in the children’s choir during the second service, and both of the girls sang in the choir during the third service. They did so great, and we were so proud of them for developing and using their talents to serve the Lord!