One of the hardest things about a job as a youth worker/pastor is watching a student who used to be so involved not be anymore. A student who you have seen God make a complete 180-degree turn in go back to the ways they struggled with before and become more and more distant. What does one do with this? What can we possibly say in times like this? What can we actively do with this to move forward?

I’m going to be honest, I don’t know. It’s hard. I keep coming back to this verse:

How tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God. That power is the same divine power which was demonstrated in Christ when he raised him from the dead. (Eph 1:19-20)

Something I have learned more this year than in my previous years in youth ministry is that we have the power to change no one.

As much as we want to, we don’t have the power to do this. Here is what I have learned to do when this comes:

Pray– Prayer is simple, but it is not always easy. Patience is the key to prayer. Pray that God begins to soften their heart to be open to talking about what is happening.

Pursue– For students who are not coming like they used to because they know they are doing things that are not right, constantly pursue them. Let them know that you are thinking/praying for them and are there for them. Whether if they text back or not, they will know that you are still thinking about them.

Persist– We don’t know how long it will take, but we need to persist. I have seen this in my own ministry. I have gotten a random text from a student months after them not being around, but because they knew I was thinking about them weekly when things got hard, I would get a text to meet. 

Prepare – If they reach out to you, be prepared for what is coming. Be prepared to listen. Listen well. Most of the time, I don’t say anything because I just want to hear what’s going on. I’m not quick to give advice unless asked. This is the first of many meetings to follow.

God has the power to bring people back to Him. We do not. God can still move in huge ways and we get to be a vessel in bringing students back to Jesus. What an awesome job we have.

– Justin