Just over three weeks ago, our student ministry lost an amazing young man by the name of Noah Spivey. When I say amazing, I don’t say that with empty rhetoric in any way. He truly was an amazing young man. He taught me so many things while he was here with us, and my life was enriched by his friendship.
Death is inevitable in our ministries at some point. The reality of that statement stinks, if I can be completely honest with you. But it’s a reality. So what do you do as a Student Pastor when you come to the crossroads of dealing with the death of one of your students? I’m not an expert and can only offer advice from someone who recently went through this situation. So, here are some thoughts from a guy in the trenches with you:
- Be Visible to the family: I actually stood by the bedside with Noah’s mom, dad, sister, and aunt as he went home to be with Jesus. The thing that the family will remember over the next several weeks, months, and years to come is not the great sermon you preached at the funeral or the words of comfort (see below) that you spoke over them, it was your presence. Your presence means more than you know.
- Speak words of comfort over the family: One of the greatest things I learned through this process was that the greatest comfort I could give the family was to give them the promises of God in death of one of his children. Speak the word of God over the family. If there’s ever a time a family needs to allow the word to saturate their hearts and minds, it’s in the loss of one of their children.
- Change Your Plans: Death is not convenient. It never is. Everyone knows you’re busy as a Youth Pastor, but your plans/calendar changed when your student passed away. Whatever meetings, speaking engagements, and other plans you had…they most likely just got changed.
- Be a Servant: One of the greatest ways you can lead/shepherd a family is to serve them, especially during times of grief. Bring them dinner, clean their house, take their kid out of the house to a movie, etc.. Find ways to serve them.
- Follow Up with family: The months and weeks following the death of a loved one are often the hardest. Don’t be just be visible during the week of the death and funeral, but make sure you’re checking in with the family in the following months.
- Be Prepared: Don’t wait (like I did) to learn how to lead in this situation until it happens. Ask your Pastor for some help on putting together a funeral, read some good books (this is a great one), and ask other Student Pastor’s that have been in this situation to give you some insight. Proper preparation prevents poor performance, right? (Big thanks to all my coaches growing up that always said that, but often in a more vulgar way 🙂 )
If you get a few minutes, watch this video from our buddy Noah, just a month or so before his death. Noah, thank you for showing me Christ through your joy and perseverance in suffering. I love you friend.