We’ve told Bible stories to teenagers as examples of how God wants to use even them. So shouldn’t it make sense that God wants to use even us? Even you? Even me? And doesn’t it follow that God will work through us to draw teenagers to him, whether we have brilliant youth ministry skills or not, whether we have the right approach or not?
A modern-day story, shared with me some time ago by a friend of mine, gifted veteran youth pastor Sam Halverson (author of One Body: Integrating Teenagers into the Life of Your Church):
Sam had a teenage guy in his group (we’ll call him Tim) who’d shown no spiritual interest whatsoever and was normally brooding and dark in his outlook. At a particular worship time, the students in Sam’s group were given some space to reflect on their spiritual lives. Tim sat by himself and was drawn into a very personal something. Sam couldn’t tell what was going on, whether Tim was having a profound spiritual moment, or was angry, or something else. He noticed Tim with his head down; as Sam moved around the room and neared Tim, he could tell Tim was in the midst of something intense. Sam said he had no idea what to do. Should he interrupt what was possibly a personal moment between Tim and God and ask Tim what was going on? Should he lay hands on Tim and pray for him? Should he leave Tim alone?
Sam, feeling helpless and bumbling, lightly touched Tim on the shoulder and said, “I’m here.” Tim only nodded but said nothing. As he walked away, Sam felt he’d probably blown it, that there was likely something better he should have done (but he had no idea what that better thing would have been).
A week later, Tim’s mom called Sam about another issue. At the end of the call, she said, “Oh, and I wanted to tell you thanks for what you did for Tim.” Sam was confused. Tim’s mom continued, “Tim told me that he was really struggling with whether or not God even exists. In that prayer time, Tim was begging God to reveal himself. He prayed, ‘If you’re real, God, then do something—right now—to say “I’m here!” ’ Tim told me that the second he prayed that, you put your hand on his shoulder and said, ‘I’m here.’ ”
The fact is: Sam is a great youth worker. He’s smart and relational and creative and caring. But that moment with Tim had nothing to do with Sam’s youth ministry skills. Sam felt like he’d blown it! But God was working through Sam and in Tim.