I few weeks ago, I took my students on a mission trip to Dallas. I’ve taken my
students on mission trips before, and since we were working with the same organization
and returning back to the same place we went last year, this was going to be a piece of
cake. Boy was I wrong. Midweek into our mission trip, a group of my guys got a little
carried away while building “air mattress forts.” What was supposed to be an innocent
time of building awesome air mattress structures, turned into a game of high jump,
matched only by the Olympics. And of course, the only way one can accomplish the
task of jumping on top of five stacked air mattresses, is to get the biggest guys to
compete against each other. To sum it up, it only takes the first contestant on his first
attempt, for everyone to win the coveted “hole in the wall” prize!
Looking back on the situation now, I can laugh and be thankful for having such a
fond memory, which will never go away because my guys recorded the incident and put
it on Facebook for the world to see. However, at the time, I was not a happy missionary.
In fact, I’m pretty sure I went through all the stages of grief and then some. This was my
first time as a student minister to go through the experience of having a youth group
actually cause serious damage. The rest of the week, I had the privilege of being able to
wake up and go to bed to the lovely image of a hole in the wall. As I stared at the hole, it
started to represent an emotion that can be summed up in one word: failure.
Failing sucks. No one likes to get a test back with a big fat F on it (especially if it’s
written in red), and the accidents and choices our students make can cause us to feel
like we just bombed an exam. When students cause accidents or make bad choices,
we naturally take on their failures and believe we have let them down. Yet, we have
to remember their actions do not determine if we are failing as ministers. What does
determine our failure as a minister is when we refuse to preach the Gospel, choose our
ministries over our families, neglect our own walk with Christ, withhold love and grace to
those who need it, or refuse to serve the “least of these.”
In the end, accidents happen. Walls get repaired and the church your youth
group destroyed, eventually forgets what happened. We can’t control what our students
will do outside the church walls, and there’s very little we can control when they’re
inside them either, but we can control how we can be the light of Christ to our students
and to the fallen world we live in. Don’t fall into the trap (like I did) and forget success as
a minister is determined by our relationship with Christ, not our ministries.