When I first started serving in Student Ministry as a volunteer, I remember having breakfast with one of the veteran volunteers, wanting to pick his brain on how he has been such a successful student ministry leader for so long (at that point, he was working on his 16th year in that ministry.) We talked about prayer, leading out of the overflow of your heart, preparation for the lesson ahead of time, etc. As we were walking back to our cars in the parking lot, he decided to throw in one more nugget of wisdom that has stuck with me for a long time. His words to me? “Jason, if you want to be a good youth pastor one day, do the little things for your students.” His words weren’t revolutionary in my thinking, but they stuck. But why? Why did they stick? The reason was simple; because for the past two years, I had seen that man do those “little things” incredibly well for the students he was privileged to lead.
It’s the little things that stick with us a human beings, isn’t it? It’s the note that someone writes you out of the blue. It’s the word of encouragement that someone gives you in the hallway at work. It’s the food that someone brings to your house when your entire family is hugging toilets because they’re down with the flu. It’s the little things that have maximum impact.
Today, rather than sharing a punch list of things we should be doing as Student Pastors, I’d like to just share a few of those little things that were done to me when I was a student in a youth ministry, all by volunteers in that ministry. This has been a fun exercise for me, by the way, and I think I might just go write a letter or two and send it over to some of those volunteers to let them know how thankful I am for them.
- They showed up. I remember seeing them after my baseball games waiting to say hey, just to let me know that they were proud of me. I also remember seeing several of them show up to my high school to see me lead my first bible study at a club that I started at the school that year.
- They wrote me letters. I still have some of those letters, actually. Just the random note to say “I’m praying for you” or “I’m so thankful to have you in my Sunday School class.” It’s amazing what encouragement does for the heart, isn’t it?
- They followed up with me after I shared prayer requests with them: I remember one day telling one of my leaders that I was really worried about my Algebra 2 test I had coming up (I was terrible at math.) He called me the night before to let me know he was praying for me, and then he called me that afternoon to ask me how I did on that test. Little things.
- They invited me into their home. I shared countless meals around the table in the homes of the volunteers in our youth ministry when I was growing up. You learn a lot about someone when you come into their home. I learned a lot about the character and integrity of those that were investing in me when I came into their homes from the way they interacted with their spouses and children to the way they disciplined their dogs.
- They invited me along. Windshield time. I remember doing a random Friday morning road trip one summer to the booming metropolis of Burgaw, NC. The purpose? To pick up a dead pig for a pig pickin they were going to have the next day. They ended up inviting me to sit around with them all through the night while that pig cooked. I’ll never forget those 48 hours.
I realize that the game has changed a bit now. Students text more than they write letters. I mean, most kids don’t even use email anymore, let alone letters in the mail. But the reality is the same today as it was 20 years ago; students need the little things from their leaders. It’s the little things that go a long way.