by Amanda Waterson
Youth ministry is one ministry where you don't always see immediate fruit
This can be disillusioning and disheartening, but we want to encourage you because there is light at the end of the tunnel- even if the tunnel is very, very, VERY long.
One of the toughest parts of youth ministry is to pour your love, life and wallet into a young person, only to have them walk away from you and other positive influences based around faith…..and then welcome the next young person in with open arms, ready to love again. It’s always good to remember that we are children of God and our identity is in Him, not our statistics. Christ is in us and that is what matters – regardless of how many are at youth, how they behave when they get there, how many times your leaders let you down, and how many complain and walk away – it doesn’t change the fact that you are a son of the Most High God and your identity is in that – circumstances don’t change truth.
But, to encourage you, we are sharing the stories of some young adults from our youth group from years ago – from more than 10 years ago for most of them. Some of these young people, could have been easily written off, but now, a decade later, they are bearing much fruit. May their stories encourage you and inspire you to love your youth relentlessly and passionately. May they give you keys and strategies to help with your own youth ministry.
This week we look at BFG.
BFG - The quiet one that sometimes gets overlooked or misunderstood.
Yes, you heard right – BFG. His real name is ‘Andrew Franklin,’ but when he joined youth in 2005, he was taller than just about everyone else in the building so we dubbed him, ‘Big Friendly Giant.’ BFG came to youth, sat up the back, and pretty much never spoke to anyone.
He would sit with a blank face in devotions and give you nothing. Rule number one of youth ministry – serve God…..don’t look to the youth for feedback. Week after week, Graham would preach his heart out, and BFG would give nothing back. If Graham looked to BFG for affirmation, he probably would have quit youth ministry. He was one kid that we could have easily overlooked and almost discredited. Week after week he would come and sit up the back and listen and watch. He didn’t participate in many activities and would often prefer to sit on the back wall and draw – on himself, on others and on paper (or anything else he could find.)
BFG was also in trouble at school. He loved fire and knives – what teenage boy doesn’t? But, the school system didn’t approve of BFG’s passions. There were issues with bullying and to make matters worse for BFG, one of the guys who bullied him, came to youth….so he couldn’t escape the bullying that happened at school.
Graham invited an evangelist to preach at youth one night…..and after months and months of Graham pouring the Bible into BFG (and BFG giving nothing back in return), an evangelist comes in for one night, BFG decides to start his journey of faith. (This has happened more than once to us so – keep preaching your hearts out, but keep inviting guest preachers in and linking your youth up to ‘events.’)
BFG soon began connecting in to God through LAC. He also joined our mission teams. His adventures on missions with us were not without issues in the early days however. I remember well having to break up a fight between BFG and another team member – after we had ministered in a church and were having morning tea with the congregation. Good times. There was another occasion- where I am sure the story has grown over the years- where I had to have a stern discussion with BFG on the side of the road in the middle of Australia. We will let him tell that one – without any embellishments of course.
BFG kept connecting in to God, allowing us to disciple him, and very quickly developed into an awesome man of God. We used his artistic ability to help paint decorations and props for our mission trips. Work was scarce in Maryborough, so he left for a while to work in the outback. During his time in western Queensland, he served faithfully as a youth leader and worked on the sound desk. We were thankful when we heard he secured work back in Maryborough and are grateful to have him back on our youth leadership team and mission teams again.
BFG could have quite easily been overlooked because he was quiet. He gave nothing away during devotional and study times and this could have easily disillusioned the youth leadership team, except they were secure in their identity as sons.
BFG is such an asset to our youth group. He ‘gets’ our heart beat and senses those kids who are lonely and isolated. He connects with the quiet kids, but he is also able to redirect problematic boys – he was once in trouble at school, and was in one too many fights….so he is the perfect leader to deescalate problems with boys. BFG has led many youth and children to the Lord on our mission trips, and we are blessed to have in on board.
Others might have been tempted to overlook this quiet, problematic boy, but God saw him, God noticed him and God shaped him to become the awesome young man of God he is today.