Ministry is tough. Middle school ministry is even tougher. Every time I tell someone I work with middle school youth, the response is either something along the lines of, “Why would you do that to yourself?” or “God bless your soul,” or my personal favorite, “If we become saints, you’re going to the front of the line to be canonized.” We all know it can be tough to work with middle schoolers.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve grown to love dearly the group of kids I get to minister to every Sunday, even when they’re bouncing off the walls (which is always). But sometimes it can be extremely frustrating to not be able to witness the fruits of my efforts. When ministering to kids in middle school, it is highly unlikely to get to witness a kid ‘getting it.’ By this, I mean that moment when everything we’ve been saying to the youth for a year finally clicks in their mind and they begin to truly understand that Jesus loves them, died for them, and wants them to follow Him. It would be amazing if every kid (or any kid) came up to me after a youth night and said, “Hey, that was a fantastic night. I genuinely love God, and I’m going to commit myself to living for Him.” Like I said, that would be incredible. Reality looks more like a youth saying something in their small group like “Yeah, I guess God is pretty cool.” (Not joking). In middle school youth ministry, this is a huge win. After most youth nights, I never truly know how the youth responded to what took place. And I probably will never know.
[tweetthis]He is the gardener. I am His servant. [/tweetthis]
But that’s the thing with middle school youth ministry: we are not the ones watching the fruit grow. We are merely planting seeds, or sometimes just tilling the soil to help make a place where something might grow someday. And honestly, it’s not even us doing the work. We’re just lucky enough that the Holy Spirit is choosing to use our feeble hands to further the Kingdom of God here on Earth. As middle school youth ministers, we help with the groundwork. They say that sometimes it takes hearing the Gospel message 15 times before we actually take it to heart. It’s so difficult to remember that the third time that message is proclaimed is just as important as the fifteenth.
Chances are that I will never see the ways God is working in the hearts of the youth I see every Sunday. But that does not mean that the work is arbitrary. God has the power and ability to use every game we play, every word we speak, every time of small group, every smile, every interaction, every meal, and every prayer said to move the hearts of these kids, and move my heart as well. [tweetthis]God has the power to use every interaction in ministry to move hearts[/tweetthis]
When I begin to lose hope that God can use middle school ministry to change hearts, I look around at the seeds being planted. I know that while I can’t see anything now, and maybe never will, God can see the garden. And I am not the gardener. I am just present for a step in their journey. And while I’m here, I’ll put on my gloves and work with the Gardener to help build His Kingdom.
-written by Kelsey Ricketson, former middle school youth minister of St. Mary’s in Caldwell