I’m beginning a series of posts based on real conversations I’m having with students. My hope is to unpack the everyday conversations we have with our students all the time and share some insights for ministry.

This morning I had a student confess his fear that at the end of his life there would be something missing and he would be left out in the cold. Growing up the church he was a good and faithful kid, one of my strongest middle schoolers. Then in high school something switched. He has stopped pursuing God and questioning his faith. He still thinks he believes in Jesus, but isn’t sure that his faith is real.

We’ve had the same conversation several times over the past year, and I’m not seeing a lot of progress honestly. But strangely, I’m not discouraged. Here’s why:

1. In the midst of his doubts, there is still a kernal of desire for God. As he said this morning, “I don’t want to believe God is true, but I WANT to want believe.” This gives me a glimpse that the Spirit is working in him.

2. He knows the difference between an inherited faith and an owned faith…and he wants the latter. He wants to follow Jesus because he believes it, not just because his parents believe it. I get to remind him that wrestling with his faith is actually a GOOD thing and a normal part of the maturing process.

3. I get to remind him of the beautiful story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection over and over again. This student literally said this to me this morning, “It’s like I just want God to take the initiave in my faith.” My heart jumped inside because I get to tell him (again) that God DID take the initiative. Jesus came to us to save us from us. Jesus has done everything to prove that He is with us.

It’s conversations like these that accumulate in the process of discipleship. Conversations where no “Progress” is made. They nudge a student toward Jesus, even if only in a small way. If you are looking for measureable progress in student ministry, then you will be frustrated and discouraged frequently. Instead, be encouraged that the Holy Spirit is at work in the life of your students, even when it’s not always plain to see.

In Mark 4, Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed, which starts out small and grows to something big. It’s the same way with our ministry to students. It’s the seemingly small things (conversations, listening, faithfulness) that God will use to grow His kingdom.