Treasure in Fragile Clay Jars
It happens every year.
There are students who you’ve journeyed with for years that in what seems to be a blink of the eye have suddenly become adults. If you’re anything like me you sit there sometimes wondering how this happened.
This year, it hit me especially hard. I’ve got (or…had) a student in our ministry named Austin. When I met Austin he was barely 11-years old, tiny and wildly immature (as many middle school students tend to be). My first memory of him is from his first winter camp. We were all hiking up to our cabin through the snow, and he accidentally dropped everything. I’m not sure where it came from, but there was an inner-Hulk that appeared. He threw one of the biggest fits I’ve ever seen because his pillow got wet in the snow.
I’m not quite sure why that certain memory stands out, but it does. I remember us really not getting along in those beginning years. Our personalities and temperaments certainly weren’t similar by any means. And yet, as I kept walking alongside him in life, our relationship shifted. I shared times of great pain with him and times of pure joy. There were boring times, and there were more boring times. There were times of celebration and times of loss. We lived life together, and it was beautiful. And now that once young boy has graduated high school and moved away to college.
You can probably think of a student or two who you grew close with over the years. You’ve poured into this student and watched them grow up right in front of your eyes.
But then the day comes.
Like all students, they move on.
Perhaps they move on because they
- got bored…
- or found a more attractive youth ministry…
- or abandoned religion…
- or chose sports over church…
- or got mad at you…
- or graduated and had to move to college.
Whatever the reason, the truth remains the same. All students will eventually move on. That’s simply the nature of this thing called youth ministry life.
You see, as desperately as we try to keep relationships, people will continue to come and go from our lives. It happens every day all around the world. People move. People break up. People stop attending things. People are fluid. They’re constantly changing. None of us are static beings (even the old people in your church).
Humanity is not infinite.
It’s finite. We all have a shelf life.
In the New Living Translation of 2 Corinthians 4, the title for the chapter is tragically beautiful. The title is simply…
“Treasure in Fragile Clay Jars.”
This passage explores the reality that life is temporary. It’s like a clay jar, easily breakable. However, what exists in the clay jar is to be treated like treasure or a valuable gift from the potter. I think we forget the treasures of life that God has given to us on a daily basis. Every day God places treasures in front of us, whether it’s oxygen or a middle school student named Austin. We don’t know when either of those will run out, so we better be making the most of what time we do have with them.
You could have one short night with a student or an 8-year journey.
Both of those are gifts. The question becomes how you will treat them? How will you make the most impact? How will you love and cherish the relationships with these students in front of you, knowing that they could end at any moment?
Every moment with a student matters. Every connection or relationship you make with students is deeply valuable. Every student is a treasure in a fragile clay jar.
Ryan Schmall is the Student Ministries Pastor at Redding First Church of the Nazarene in Northern California. He is married to his wife Jeanette, and together they have three amazing girls. Ryan is passionate about creating experiences and environments for people to encounter God in new and unique ways. You can follow him on Twitter or read his blog over at iamryanschmall.tumblr.com.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.