The Worst Part About Middle School Ministry

It started out as the best relationship a youth leader could have with a student. Adam came into our ministry as a precocious 6th grader and he and I connected right away. Over the next few years we mutually had a profound impact on one another’s life. I impacted him by being a spiritual mentor during his young teenage years and he impacted me by showing me how fulfilling middle school ministry could be.

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We had spiritual conversations. I prayed with him a lot. His parents became friends of mine. We had fun on retreats, at concerts, and at camps. But things have changed in the past few years.

After I switched churches during Adam’s 9th grade year I would visit him and his family every once in awhile. He and I would also periodically talk on the phone. But little by little, he started to push me out of his life. He stopped answering calls. He wouldn’t reply to texts.

I now have had no contact with him in the last 18 months. By viewing his social media accounts and talking to people close to him, I have discovered Adam has gotten in with a bad group of friends. He has also started smoking marijuana and doesn’t like going to church.

It breaks my heart to know he is on a destructive path. All I can do now is pray for him and hear second-hand news about him from his dad, who usually passes along the reports in a sad, regretful, and worried tone.

In my 10-plus years in youth ministry I have been frustrated with a small handful of parents, overwhelmed when large events go haywire, seen a youth pastor and mentor get fired, and been rightfully chastised for making foolish decisions. But my experience with Adam is the worst thing I have experienced in ministry. It has been the biggest personal disappointment of my post-college life, too.

I don’t consider myself a failure in this situation because God is ultimately responsible for drawing people to himself. But it flat-out hurts to see someone you care about walking down a destructive road.

Don’t get involved in ministry to middle school boys without counting the cost. Walking alongside students has generated my greatest joys in life, but also the most heart-wrenching experiences. In my opinion seeing students walk away from God is the worst part about middle school ministry, or any ministry for that matter.

I mentioned that Adam’s dad periodically gives me updates on his son’s life. His reports are sprinkled with slight hints of hope that Adam will change. I choose to have hope for Adam, too. I believe we serve a powerful God who can change Adam and lead him down the path that leads to life.

Dear God: Please convict Adam of the sin in his life. Draw him back to yourself, reveal your face to him, and mend my relationship with him. In Jesus’ powerful name I pray, amen.

What is another difficult aspect of doing ministry with middle school boys? You can leave a comment by clicking here.