Ever had a “bad” night in ministry? You know the times when we come to youth programming, planned, prayed and ready and it all unravels?

We decide to show a video that we think will be impactful and you discover half the students aren’t even paying attention. They are giggling in the back and passing notes, during what should be a serious time. Then we move to small groups and no one wants to engage. Instead they all stare at us.

Worse yet, on one of these nights you come to the discouraging epiphany that many of your students don’t really “want” Jesus right now. Sure they can give the “right” answers (sort of) when it comes to Salvation, but when you press about living for Him, they go blank.

Recently, at the end of one of these nights a student pulled me aside and asked, “Were you mad at us during small group tonight? It felt like you gave up.” I wasn’t sure how to answer, exactly. My defeat had led to us giving up on what I wanted to be a powerful discussion and simply talking about who was going to see the opening of “Divergent” soon. I told her, “No, I wasn’t angry. I was just hoping for a deeper discussion tonight.” She said, “Yeah, I don’t know why none of us felt like talking.”

It reminded me of some important truths for these nights:

They are still listening:

I once had a student say to me, “We are always listening, sometimes we just act like we aren’t.” Recently I told my Juniors and Seniors, “If you don’t want to come and really contemplate what totally living for Christ means for you, then don’t come. There are other activities you can choose and this is a waste of your time.” (Probably shouldn’t have said that.) However, they all came back the following week. None of them dropped out. They are paying attention and taking it in, even when it seems like they are running from God. He may want to use that “Divergent” discussion.

We Can’t Save, Change a Heart, or Bring Transformation:

Drawing a person to be closer to the Lord with a desire to be His, is the work of the Holy Spirit. When they don’t respond, it has nothing to do with us. When they do take action it still has nothing to do with us. The Lord is the one that calls people to belong to Him.

No ONE Person, Night, Event, Moment or Action Completes A Person’s Walk With Christ:

There are nights that are “dry.” It happens for numerous reasons. Recently, I asked a group of HS Seniors if they could point to just ONE person or time that had helped them grow in the Lord. The answer was of course NO. Some reflected on a speaker they heard at a retreat and a sports coach. Others talked of a favorite sermon, and conversations they had with a youth leader or parent. It’s a journey. Every time God is on the move and we may never know how He is using the “bad” night to bring Himself glory.

So give yourself some slack. Regroup. Just because it didn’t “work” the way you wanted, doesn’t mean God isn’t still doing something. Don’t give up quite yet. Use these times as an opportunity to be moved to pray for your teens. Always remember: we may plant or water but it is indeed the Lord that causes the increase.

What do you do recall on the “bad” nights?”