There aren’t many things I like more than a good buffet. The buffet is an American institution. The buffet is a great experience. The buffet can also be a place of comfort.
Before you start thinking this article is about making healthy food choices, stop! That is not where we are going here.
There is something about a buffet that illustrates youth ministry and ministry in general. When you go to a buffet, you get to pick exactly what you want to eat. Once that big oval plate is firmly in hand, you go directly to the food you desire. You get fried chicken, macaroni, ribs, rice, taters, fried okra, and you don’t stop until you have the Mt. Everest of food piled high on your plate.
As you take your seat, you look down at your plate to see a concoction of food that you have designed. Every item is in a special place. You chose exactly what you wanted and skipped over everything you didn’t want. Then you sit down, inhale it like a shop vac, and repeat that process one or two more times.
This is how the buffet works.
Now, how does youth ministry work? Students come to your church and youth group and they consume what they want and reject what they don’t. As a youth pastor, you probably feel that everything you do and every event you plan is so good every student is going to love it! But if we’re honest, we take it personally that a student picked up Sunday School or small groups, but left your mid-week service off of his or her plate. They came to the dodgeball tourney, but skipped out on DNOW.
You’re left scratching your head and searching your heart wondering why it is the way it is. It’s like the chef at the buffet seeing someone skip over the baked ham and thinking, “What in the world!? The ham I baked is delicious! Why don’t they like my ham?”
Obviously, what we’re providing within our student ministries are eternal matters considerably more important than a chef’s rejected ham, but we still feel the sting of a student’s saying “no” to something we’re offering. I had a 30-minute conversation with a parent recently because his son apparently hates youth Sunday school. He has his reasons, and I will do all I can to work through them with him. But it’s still not easy to hear someone say he doesn’t like what you’re providing. No matter who is in the wrong, rejection will always be difficult.
Here is where I am, and I think it’s a good place for all of us who work with students. We need to be realistic in our ministries and understand there will be students who come to everything, or some things, or maybe just one thing. This situation is reality. We must not take it personally, and at the same time we must pray and work hard to provide opportunities to build relationships and to disciple students with God’s Word.
For the students who seem to reject what’s being offered more frequently, pray for them and pull them aside, talk with them about their feelings. That conversation is usually best at Chick-fil-A or your favorite Southern buffet. Don’t be defensive. Let them know you care about them and want to do all you can to see them be who God has called them to be and do what He has called them to do. This process takes time, but it’s worth it. Lean on God’s word that says in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up.”
So, the next time you’re at your favorite buffet and you skip over the collard greens, you haven’t personally rejected the chef. And the next time a kid doesn’t show up for something, follow up and reach out. But know that as long as you’re in ministry, there will be those disappointments. Stay faithful, don’t grow weary, and according to God’s promise, you will see some good fruit!
This story was provided by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board Student Ministry Network.