The story goes that street performer Jesse Rya was doing what he does best, playing guitar and singing. Jamie Maldonado of Dallas was headed to the grocery store when he took notice of Jesse, liked what he heard and started to video him. All of a sudden another gentleman stops, deciding to join Jesse with some fill-in vocals. Another young man throws out a vocal as he is walking through the door to the shop. He decides to take a step back join the now duo and eventually freestyle. Next thing you know the video goes viral, and is currently closing in on 6 million views. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch below:

Here is what I see in this video: Participants, spectators, and those that pass by.  There are some who join the music, others who watch it and a couple of those on their way to somewhere else who merely keep going. It got me thinking about a conversation I had last week with a couple of friends. We got to talking about youth and creativity. Some students will tell you they “aren’t creative,” instead they are athletes or scientists or on the “math team.” Others will tell you they don’t have a place to belong at all.

By the time our children hit the ripe old age of 8 or 9 we begin to make them choose “who they will be.”  They need to focus for the sake of some distant college scholarship. They need to focus in on dance or soccer or music lessons. By the time they reach the bitter age of 12 they begin to be told they are “too old” to learn soccer or the flute. The world has moved beyond them and they need to accept they just “won’t be that.”  It used to be there was a freedom until High School to find your niche, but  not so much any more. As a parent it saddens me that my 7th grade son is told he can’t learn lacrosse, because the competition has already moved past him. He isn’t wanting to be a professional, the sport looks fun.

We do this to our students unwittingly as they enter our youth ministry. Instead of looking at their heart we categorize them based on personality. The kids with the most charisma become leaders. The “artsy” kids make a mural for the youth room. The one kid who plays guitar is the worship leader. We are teaching some to participate, others to watch, and the rest that they don’t have to stop and belong at all.

None of the men in this video thought stopping and joining in would bring them their 15 minutes of fame. As a matter of fact they have denied the accusation that this was a “Jimmy Kimmel stunt.”  My favorite part is the rapper at the end says, “Thanks I needed that today.”  What did he need?  To be reminded that he is creative, that he enjoys it, and stopping for a second to remember this is alright.  Even as he is wearing his work clothes that are obviously from some blue-collar type job.

I think it’s time for us to take a step back and re-evaluate the way we look at students. Do we want them to be participants, spectators or passer by’s?  God himself said that it’s man that looks on the outside while He is looking at the inside. God is creative. (Have you seen a blobfish, rainbow or tree on a spring day?) We are made in his image. Something in all of us is creative. It just might show itself differently in each unique individual. Let’s make space for our students to find their small “jam session” where they can join in.  If we don’t I fear that far too many will think that all they can do is stand on the sidelines.

Just Believe

 —  April 9, 2013 — Leave a comment

article.2013.04.02This is the time of year many youth workers get disillusioned with their ministry. Another job opportunity piques interest or the thought of working a simple 9-5 becomes a little intoxicating to think about. The fun of the fall kickoff is in the rear view mirror; the big events have died down while students hunker down for the last couple months of the school year. The grass looks greener everywhere else, and you start to get down on yourself or look for a way out.

Feel familiar? If it does, read on and find some hope to fight the Spring-time itch:

Believe in your calling.
You are called to do ministry you are made for this! You stand shoulder to shoulder in the long line of incredible men and women God has used to further his kingdom. Satan is an expert at kicking us while we’re down, and he will also try to kick us during the down times of the ministry season.

I (Kurt) have found that the early spring is often the time of the year that I find myself a little frustrated in ministry; and it’s in these times Satan likes to kick me. Reminding myself of my calling and thanking God for allowing me to play a role in his kingdom is the best way to kick back.

Believe in your church.
You are called to your church maybe not for the rest of your life, but don’t let anyone else know that. Serve like you will be there for the rest of your life. When something happens to make you question that calling (maybe an unsupportive leader or discouraged pastor) make sure you get it all out on the table so it doesn’t fester inside and eventually cause damage. Maybe take some time today to reflect on the early days of hope and joy when you first started working with these students and believe again.

Believe in your people.
You have the right people in your church to build a great team of youth workers. Believe in them enough to value their time, encourage them well and train them for the challenges of working with students. Pray for your leadership team before you delete this email, and send them an encouraging note letting them know you did!

Believe in students.
Students are young and immature sometimes they say things quickly that sting or hurt you with their na’ve words, unaware of the verbal damage they have caused. There may need to be a confrontation or a challenge to maturity, but chances are they need a leader who will love them and be long-suffering in his/her guidance over the long haul. Believe God has given you the right students to change your community for him.

I (Josh) started a fantastic spring tradition in our ministry a few years ago: For five weeks in a row our students are in charge of every aspect of our church services. Seeing them rise to the occasion always renews my belief in the teenagers God has called me to serve.

Not sure what you’re facing this Spring or maybe we just needed to say some things to ourselves today. Just believe.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.