Earlier this week I posted about allowing your students to fail. However, as I’ve discussed before, there’s a difference between “allowing a student” to fail, and “setting a student up” to fail. Sometimes young people simply pursue things that are not within their ability. It could be for a variety of reasons. It could be they think those are the only ways to be used (and we, as Student Pastors, need to be watchful of that. If you only use kids to sing…the perception will be built that singing is the only way students CAN be used.). It could be that all of their friends are used that particular way. It could be they associate that method of ministry as having some type of prestige or recognition associated with it. The list goes on and on.

Now, I believe you should let them give it a shot…for a couple of reasons. First of all, you’re not a sage. That young person may have a hidden, underdeveloped talent that has not been identified yet. Secondly, and more commonly, your teenagers are searching for their own identity. They need a chance to learn what they are and are not capable of. If you just “tell” them they are incapable without giving them a chance to try, they may resent you, or feel you are against them. Sometimes, as painful as it may be for both parties…you need to give your students a chance to try.

In this process, 9 times out of 10 a young person will come to the realization “this particular ministry is not for me” on his/her own. The difficult part, then, is when a student never comes to that realization. Do we let them continue on, and hope they figure it out eventually? Or do we try to redirect that energy and passion to do something for God toward a ministry that is better suited for that student’s strengths? I think we know the right answer….but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy answer.

I had someone step in for me that way when I was a young person. For some reason, there was a point in my teenage years when I thought I could sing. Trust me…nothing could be further from the truth. There have been nights when, for whatever reason, my pastor and I were the only ministers at the church for that particular service. Rather than have me lead worship, he’s opted most times to go through the worship service without a worship leader at all. And honestly…I don’t blame him. I’m THAT bad!

But I digress. So I thought I could sing. I signed up to sing a solo. It was bad. But some poor, innocent saint said something encouraging to me, so I signed up to do another one. And another one. At this point, it was evident I wasn’t getting the hint, so our wise music director came to me and said, “Ya know, Michael, you are so much more talented in all of these other areas, but I don’t think this is the right fit for you. Why don’t we give some of these things a try?”

Trust me…it didn’t feel good. But once I got over the emotion of it, I really appreciated it. What if our music director never had that conversation with me? Would I have discovered that my true calling was youth ministry? Maybe, maybe not. What I do know is I’ve seen a lot of people leave the church frustrated over not being used because someone decided not using them was better than having a difficult conversation with them and redirecting their passion for the kingdom.

As the ones commissioned by God and our pastors to lead our students toward a successful future in the church, we MUST at times, with much prayer, and in a very loving, encouraging way, look a young person in the eye and say, “This is not for you…let’s try something else.” Wouldn’t it be much better to do that in your student ministry setting than after they’ve grown out of the youth program?

So what about you? Have you been faced with times where you had to have these types of conversations? How did you approach it? Comment below.


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