This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday: write for five minutes on a one-word prompt. The prompt today is “reward.”
I’ve been involved in youth ministry long enough to know that it is often a thankless task.
There are the times you pour hours into planning and preparing an event only to find that no-one shows up. There are the young people who remain sullen and disengaged no matter how much effort you make, and those who seem to come only to cause trouble. Then there are the people who seem to look down on youth ministry, as if it’s somehow inferior to working with adults. It’s easy to feel unappreciated.
This week I got to help host a thank you meal for volunteers involved in running Christian groups in schools. It was amazing to do something to honour all their commitment, and it was a wonderful evening – good food, encouraging conversations, the chance to pray together and share stories. We had made an effort with the decorations and provided little gifts for each of them. We had done everything possible to make them feel special, and I think we succeeded, but I was also struck by the fact that, while the evening was much-appreciated and I’m so glad we did it, none of them needed the reward.
None of them were doing it to receive others’ praise or to get anything out of it for themselves. They were doing it because they love Jesus and they care for young people, and they want to share God’s love and truth with them.
And as stories were shared from some of the groups, it was clear what the real reward was. It was in being used by God to make a difference in the young people’s lives. It was the young people who had taken steps of faith whether that was investigating the Bible for the first time, committing themselves to follow Jesus, or stepping out boldly to serve him.
As Paul puts it, “After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you!” (1 Thessalonians 2:19 NLT)
There is no reward we could give them that would come close to the joy of seeing God work through them to impact others.
We also acknowledged that it’s not always easy. We don’t always see the fruit of our work. Sometimes it feels like all the time and effort you’re giving are achieving nothing.
We left them with these encouragements:
“Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9 NLT)
“It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” (Isaiah 55:11 NLT)
We may go through long periods where we struggle to see it, but the reward will come, and when it does it will make it all worthwhile.