Whether you’re a youth pastor, a volunteer, a teacher, or a parent, you know that investing in middle school students can be a difficult experience at times. It’s not always hard, and it shouldn’t be, but there are times when everyone wonders, “Is this worth it? Am I making a difference?” I go back to those questions at least a couple times per year. Only by the grace and power of God do I persevere and remember this important truth:

I am a seed planter.

When I meet with a small group of middle school students and teach them the truth from Matthew 5:11, does every student go to school the next morning and seek to be persecuted because God will bless them if they are insulted for His name? No! (But wouldn’t that be cool?!) I have to lay the foundation before truths start to translate into action and fruit in their lives. Listen to this quote from Eugene Peterson, who writes of pastoral work within his congregation:

“The person…who looks for quick results in the seed planting of well-doing will be disappointed. If I want potatoes for dinner tomorrow, it will do me little good to go out and plant potatoes in my garden tonight. There are long stretches of darkness and invisibility and silence that separate planting and reaping. During the stretches of waiting there is cultivating and weeding and nurturing and planting still other seeds.” (Traveling Light)

We need to remember our roles in middle school ministry as seed planters. It is easy to get frustrated and question our effectiveness when we see little change. But reflect on what Peterson says in the quote… If we want potatoes for dinner tomorrow, it doesn’t do us any good to plant the potatoes tonight! Of course, as Americans we start to think about the other option to just go buy potatoes at the grocery store, but that’s not how the Holy Spirit works. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but the norm in our kind of ministry is of long waiting and often long suffering. So you have to choose if you’re willing to be faithful in the ministry of seed-planting: watering, nurturing, weeding, planting new seeds… It’s not easy business. But trust in the Lord and His work – It’s not about ME or YOU, but only about HIM.

Some people have asked me how I measure success in middle school ministry. I always tell them, “Ask me again in 10 years.” I know that for many of the students I have been in contact with over my years in middle school ministry, the change won’t happen until later in their lives. Now, that doesn’t excuse us from teaching, exhorting, and even rebuking sin in their lives today, but it does release us from expecting results immediately. One of my favorite things in ministry is when one of my former students contacts me and tells me about the Kingdom-things they are doing in the name of Jesus now in college or even in high school. Just recently I’ve been inspired by a former student of mine named Karly, who courageously faces a difficult immunodeficiency called Dock-8 everyday and still gives praise to God. She writes a blog for others to see for themselves how she maintains her faith in Christ. You can see that here: http://kjkdancingthroughtherain.blogspot.com/

The truth is that one day we might even learn from our own students if we give them the time to grow in the knowledge and love of Christ. Be patient. Love deeply. Trust in the Lord.

How do you plant, water, nurture, weed, and plant again with the students in your influence?

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