Below is another fantastic post from Junior High Ministry Veteran, Scott Rubin.
It seemed like a great idea.
Bringing six 7th grade boys to the food pantry to serve under-resourced people in our community. Help them appreciate what they’ve been given. Grow a little compassion in their hearts. Do you see where this is going?
My mood might have been 2% down at the start, after getting an email from a mom a couple hours before. She was basically scolding me for not including her email address on my communication about the night’s details I’d sent 2 weeks before, and again 2 days before. I had sent the email to her husband’s address, but apparently sometimes he doesn’t forward them to her. My bad.
It was great to see all the guys as they arrived, and we goofed around for a few minutes before I pulled them all to the side to give them a real short “vision pep talk” about what we’d be doing and why. I felt like I was really rallying the troops for this night of service! One of the 6 put his hand up to stop me; I was ready for him to make an insightful observation about our serving. His comment? “I can juggle”. Ok! Glad we’re getting pumped up about helping neighbors in need.
Things started out decently; the “regular adult volunteers” at the pantry were really happy to have some extra help from our guys. We got assigned to pack some vegetables first. We had fun while we did it – and it was good to catch up with each of the guys. Our shift was only about 90 minutes … but after about 45, some complaining started. “I’m hungry!” “Didn’t you eat before you came?” “Yeah, but that was like 2 hours ago!” OK… I’m glad we’re getting the point of serving people who are really hungry. And then “I don’t want to touch those carrots. They’re wet! I hate carrots. Can’t we do something else?? Why do those guys get to do that, while we have to do this?”
Now without bragging, I’ve got to tell you that I’m pretty good with middle schoolers. Redirecting, refocusing, listening & adjusting. But for most of these guys, nothing was working. I really was feeling like this night was failing. At one point, I honestly wondered “Why am I doing this? There are plenty of other things I could be doing.”
But… there were 2 of the 6 who were almost completely dialed in, the whole night. When we took a break midway through, and I walked them around the facility showing them how it all worked, these two kept eye contact with me, and were really engaged, even if they didn’t say much. And they were trying their middle school best to not just help, but to help the other guys stay on task. But you know what I wanted? I wanted all 6 of them to be motivated like that. I didn’t want 4 pulling the other 2 into goofy-land. So it felt like “mostly failure” to me.
I don’t have a neat little tie-it-up-in-a-bow ending for this post. But on the way home, I felt like God was telling me, “I did more than you could see in those 2 seventh graders. And maybe in the other 4, as well.”
What feels like failure isn’t always failure…right? Right?