We had a wonderful surprise this Sunday. Some members of one of our former youth groups drove 5 hours (one way) to be at our worship service, just because...
I must add that they are no longer youth but now have children of their own; although I still think of them as "the kids." My husband was their youth director and I was the (unpaid) assistant, so we really were not much older than the high school youth, maybe 2-5 years. But we were adults, just barely.
As we told stories and reminisced about old times, I told one of mine. This urban church had a dance each Friday night for the neighborhood kids. The police thanked us because the crime rate went down during that time. The dance drew about 200 kids and had been a ministry of that church for over 15 years--so it was an institution unto itself.
At 10:00 we ushered the crowd out the door and were ready to lock-up and head home. Except locking up was always a problem. The church had an ancient alarm system which consisted of a silver magnetic tape that went over the doors and windows. Invariably, one of the kids would slit the tape with a razor blade, which made finding the break almost impossible. But we got pretty good a finding it, but it could take as long as an extra hour. So I was usually annoyed, because that meant that we wouldn't get home until midnight leaving no time for us.
After I told my story, one of the "boys" spoke up. He asked, "Why do you think they did it?" I just thought they were up to mischief, and I had ample reason for believing it too. But he answered, "It was because, we didn't want to go home." This floored me. I had never considered that as a reason, but knew in my heart that it had to be true. All that for an extra hour away from home.
I have many fond memories of this youth group, because it was really my first. So I experienced many "firsts" with them. It was the first time I had such responsibility and authority and they taught me a lot. It was one of the hardest jobs I ever had, but yes, it was worth it. They were worth it. My husband baptized each of the ones that visited and they still had their certificates so many years later. They turned out ok, but many of their friends did not. We just planted seeds. Some took root; others didn't. But it was still worth it.
When I see so much pettiness and ugliness in the church, I wonder if being a church professional is worth it. Sunday reminded me that, yes, it's worth it and a lot more. I hope you keep your reasons for staying in ministry ever before you.