So a new school year has started and with it I’ve started to look back at this last year with my small group. So many amazing things have happened in that time.
The relationships with my guys has grown. Compared to last year, I’ve never been closer with them. When I started out in this ministry, I had never interacted with teenagers much before, and I worried that I would just be awkward, or they wouldn’t like me, or something else would cause us to not get along.
The first time I met them though I was surprised how easy it was to connect with them, which has turned into the solid relationships I have with them now. I have found that teenagers are not just immature pre-adults like I used to think they were, but intelligent, humorous, unique individuals that are a joy to be around.
My faith has grown so much more during this time. God has taught me and is teaching me, so many things about Him and about my faith. Some of the lessons I’ve learned were really hard, but others gave me moments of clarity where I saw the intricacies of His plan at work in my life. Over the past year, I’ve learned to trust Him more and to give up control of my life. I’ve learned to take my burdens to Him as there is no point in worrying about things because He has a plan and will make it come to fruition whether I can see that or not.
One really cool way I got to see His plan at work was when I was looking for a house to rent with some friends this year. I wanted to move closer to my church and I wanted a place that I could use to further the ministry I’m a part of. A place where I could lead bible studies, host game nights, and fellowship with others in the church.
While I was looking for a house, I hit many roadblocks and it almost looked like it wasn’t going to happen. I had a lot of trouble trusting that God would work it out, but despite my unbelief it all fell into place perfectly. I now have the house I wanted where all these things can happen. I’m already planning on bringing my students to Passion this year and we’ll be able to hang out at my house during the conference.
My love for these students and this ministry has grown. I have never felt more on fire for this calling, even though I still wrestle with self-doubts and feelings of inadequacy. God has burdened me for these students and not a day goes by that I don’t think about them.
My guys are high school seniors now which means this is my last year with them. It’s going to be a year of “lasts” with them: last year of high school, last Christmas party, last time at The Mix, last summer trip.
As we were driving back from our “last” fall retreat the other week, I began thinking about all of the “lasts” that I was going to have to face this year, and then I began thinking about how I really didn’t want to think about it. While I wish I could be their small group leader year after year, I know that they will move on and live their lives, becoming the incredible young men that I know they’ll be. I know that it’s the normal thing to move from group to group as each one graduates, but this year will be my first experience with it, and it’s proving to be much harder than I expected.
I remember the sermon series, which inspired the name of my blog and how the illustration, the jar of marbles, has quickly become real in my life. Each week I lose a another marble, bringing us closer to parting ways, and honestly that worries me sometimes. I know that as they mature into adulthood they will face hardship, loneliness and hurt, just as everyone does. I want to keep them from having to go through any of that but I know those low points are going to be some of the very things that shape them to be more Christ like. Some of the hardest things I went through were times when I saw God most clearly and felt loved most deeply.
This is where I have to give up control and put them in God’s hands. I hope that He has used me to instill some truths in them that they will hold onto in those difficult times. I pray they remember they can always turn to Him and in doing so, will discover the best relationship they could have. I wish I could be there to walk through this next chapter of life with them, but I’ll have to be content with doing that from afar. Of course I’ll still stay in contact with them, but my role as their youth group leader will change.
While my time with this group will end, my time in youth ministry is far from over. I really do look forward to meeting the next group of guys that I know God is preparing right now for me to lead. I’m sure I’ll feel this same way about the next group and all of the groups after.
So in the meantime, I will try to make the most of the marbles I have left in the jar, and not focus on what little time I have left, but focus on what God wants me to do with it. To continue leading them and teaching them things that they will take with them into their next season of life. Then after this last year, I’ll get to “refill” my jar of marbles and start again with the next group.