I’ve started volunteering with a local Wyldlife club (Wyldlife is the middle school branch of Young Life) that two parents in my ministry started. Last week I met a young man named Sergio. When I first saw Sergio, he was sitting by himself. He looked pretty bored and lonely so I decided to go talk to him. I got the standard middle schooler 0-1 word answers for the first couple questions I asked. I persisted and eventually found out that he was having a bad day because he got in trouble in all of his classes. Later on during club, he volunteered for a game and ended up having a blast eating baby food. It wasn’t a particularly interesting conversation between us, but it was significant.

I share this story for a couple of reasons:

1. First, in middle school ministry conversations can be real work (especially with guys). It takes effort to dig out what’s really going on under the surface. I don’t know if me going up to Sergio made a lasting difference in his life, but I know it made his day better. If I had given up quickly, I might have communicated that I am just like his perception of adults who don’t care about him.

2. Second, as a paid pastor at a church, I rely on my positional authority a lot. Students who come to my ministry are generally willing to talk with me because I am their youth pastor. As a volunteer outside the church with Wyldlife, I can’t rely on that crutch to get accepted. I have to work harder in order for them to let me in. While it’s not comfortable, this a good thing because I’m challenged to find genuine and creative ways to connect with these non-churched students.

So, will you join with me and pray for Sergio? Pray that I get to have more opportunities to share the love of Christ with him. Pray also for Russ and Pam Watson, the two courageous parents who are volunteers leading the Wyldlife club at Central Junior High simply because Jesus wanted them.