Ever had a student that has made the choice to walk away from you, the group, the church or even the Lord? If not yet, chances are there may come a time when it happens to you, and it hurts… a lot. We invest, love, pray, hope and see the future plans of a student. Then they stop coming around. Months later we may find out that they have made life-altering choices that they can’t “take back.” Perhaps we find out they have run away from home and moved in with their boyfriend. It could be you hear from another student they are pregnant. They were headed for college and instead are now an addict. Our first response is usually anger and (if we are honest) a little bit of an, “I told you this is what happens when you don’t follow Jesus.” However, it is quickly followed by a deep sadness with a huge dose of, “I should have done more.”

So how DO we respond in these situations when students make these choices?

Remember You Are Not, Were Not, And Never Will Be The Savior
This sounds simple. Yet, I firmly believe that the reason we go to this, “I could have/should have,” place is that we don’t believe God is big enough. We really think that we could have stopped them. We must remember that while the Lord may use us in the life of a student, we are never ever the ones who do any “saving.”

We all have hopes for who our students will become. Often we see into the purpose and plan the Lord has for them. When they walk away our heart hurts. As long as you remember our first thought above, take the time to be sad. Remember though that when God has a plan for us, His love is tenacious. He keeps knocking, until we listen.

Keep Reaching Out
It might be a text or a simple direct message on FaceBook that says, “Just was thinking about you.” You may or may not get a response. I once had a student tell me, “Following Jesus cost too much.” Only for her to discover months later the stickiness of sin was crushing. She needed to know I wouldn’t leave.

Let Them Know They Are Loved
Buried on the other side of their choices is a deep sense of guilt and even shame. Whether they are able to say it out loud or not they feel the weight of these choices. In the midst of their running away, they may need to hear they are loved no matter what. It might be the words that help them know they aren’t “too far gone.”

Pray! Pray! Pray!
Don’t stop praying for your student. We have all heard the stories of those who have prayed for 30 years for someone before they come back. Keep praying for them. It’s powerful. Again God is at work.

The final thing we must remember is that we did have a part to play in the life of this student. Nothing we said or did was for naught. We may or may not know in our time here on earth the ways God used us in their life. All we can hope for is that they will be with us one day in heaven.

Leneita Fix co-founded Frontline Urban Resources to help equip, coach and speak into the lives of those working with families living in a “survival mode” mentality. They refer to this thinking as the “new urban.” You can see her resources on DYM right here.