The summer term is one of my favourite times to be involved in youth work. The days are longer and warmer and there are far more opportunities for getting out and about with your group. But it’s also the time that some of our young people make the transition between groups. We’ve currently got year 6’s just about to join our 11-14’s group and year 9’s about to join our 14-18’s. We try and make the transition during the summer term, the idea being thats it allows them to settle in to a new group without having a large gap between groups over the summer. We figure that if they can settle in during this term, they’re more likely to come back after the summer break.
Like I say, I really like this time, primarily because it’s a time when the dynamic of the groups change and I like not quite knowing the effect the change will have. It’s both exciting and a little bit scary. But isn’t that what youth work should be anyway? Shouldn’t that be what all Christian work is like?!
Last night we had a newcomers BBQ for the year 9’s moving up a group. We’ve only got a few year 9’s who we were expecting to join us but I had sent out letters to every child in years 9, 10 and 11 who were on the church census and whom we hadn’t really have much contact with. It was just a simple letter explaining what the group does and inviting them to the BBQ. We’d had some good results from doing this last year and ended up gaining some young people we hadn’t previously had contact with. They’ve now become solid members of the group and we’re really blessed to have them. The hope was that we might see a repeat of that this year.
We normally get around 12-15 young people turn up on a Sunday evening. Last night, we got 35. The place was absolutely heaving. There were faces that we hadn’t seen for a while, those we hadn’t seen for a long time and those we’d never seen at all. Bizarrely, those who we rarely see had turned up and brought friends with them, which is slightly mind boggling when you consider that the regulars barely ever bring anyone along. It was really encouraging to see so many young people there, gorging themselves on burnt offerings to the Lord. If anything, it simply showed that there are young people in our church who aren’t completely against being involved in the youth work. It’s easy to take their absence as a personal slight on what you do but this clearly isn’t the case.
If I’m honest though, I have mixed feelings about it all. It’s great to see so many young people at the group, but I do wonder how many of them will be there next week. Now I’m not talking about having them there for numbers sake. Numbers don’t really matter at the end of the day. But I wonder how many will be back week on week being discipled, how many will go through the group and come out the other side really going for Jesus. It’s just sad to think that out of all those kids, only a small handful will stick and within that handful an even smaller number will really become disciples of Christ. Maybe I’m just hopelessly pessimistic!
But on a more positive note, it was an encouraging evening and I can’t wait to see how the shape of the group changes and how the new members settle in. It’ll be great to get to know the new kids and teach them about Jesus. As we prayed at the end of the evening, Jeremiah 29:11 popped into my mind:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
I’m sure this was God setting my mind at rest. No matter what happens to the group, it’ll only be for the glory of God.