Confession: I had a student fall asleep in small group this week. We have our midweek programming designed where our small groups happen for 30 minutes at the end of the evening. Prior to small groups that night, we had a fun game and a well-received message. Then, one of my student leaders (a student leader!) fell asleep during small group.
I momentarily sat at a crossroads of what I should do in this situation. A younger version of myself would have felt disrespected, woke the student up, pull him aside and verbally made him feel the weight of that poor choice. A discouraged me would have kept quiet, gone home that night and analyzed why our ministry environment wasn’t more compelling. My critical, proud, and disappointed sides all would have had various strong opinions on different days as well.
Regardless of the options that may have buzzed through my head in that moment, I tried to focus on how Jesus saw that sleeping student. He was a child of God and he was exhausted.
After we dismissed for the night, the student came up to both me and his small group leader. No one had said a word to him about the sleeping. This student leader apologized for his actions while still rubbing the corners of his tired eyes.
He didn’t need a lecture.
He didn’t need a sarcastic comment.
He didn’t need me to lean on the tone of leadership he sets in the group.
He needed love and to know that we were all still okay with him. (He actually thought he was informing us that he slept through small group! Precious!)
All that to say, my first, second, third and probably even ninety-ninth natural responses are not always ones that would mimic Jesus. Before anything else, I truly want to be a reflection of Jesus to my kids. This week, I think that looked like listening to a student that was physically feeling the stress of high school and was just spent.
Being a youth pastor isn’t about a title on a website, authority in your youth room, or clout on your leadership teams. It’s not about speaking to crowds or how many Instagram followers you have. It isn’t about always being right. It’s about connecting people to Jesus.
My small group leader beautifully used this conversation as a way to talk about how important prayer and rest are to God. He told the student that getting some solid sleep could be an incredible example of trusting God in the storm. The three of us accidentally had a mini small group that might have been exactly what my high schooler needed.
God’s plan is always better than mine. He turns my clumsy stomp into a light dance when I let Him lead my footsteps in ministry. That’s good for my students, my ministry, and my soul.
I think God may have put my student asleep to remind me that’s He’s still leading this dance.