When things come to a close it can be a sad time.
When we come back from overseas after a wonderful holiday, when we say good-bye after a lovely dinner with friends, when the inspiring movie could have gone on much longer but had to come to an end. There is often the feeling of sadness.
So it is with youth ministries and programs that come to a close.
At a recent ministry meeting a team of us decided to close a ministry that has been going on in our church for the last three years. For the past 18 months many of the main leaders in this program have left and moved onto other things. Others have simply stopped participating and helping out, not making it a priority. And some, sadly, have left the church and the faith altogether.
The feeling of the team was that it is best to lay the program down for a season or two.
And, it is sad.
It is sad because it is something many have put their hearts and souls into.
It is sad because it is a ministry that was loved by parents, students, and the wider church.
It is sad because relationships were strained because of the program and the stress involved.
It is sad because the investment of money, time, and effort into something like this brings with it an emotional connection.
But my pastor, who chaired the meeting, reminded us all of John 12:24,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Our ministries, and church programs, including our precious youth group or camp or event, are like the grain. Sometimes they must fall to earth and die in order for more fruit to be produced.
Looking at this verse in closer context we see that some Greeks have come to see Jesus. From Andrew to Peter the message of these visitors is passed on to Jesus. Jesus responds by telling these visitors that his time to be glorified is close, very close.
We find shortly after that Jesus is actually referring to his death. Through his death the disciples and the believers will bear much fruit.
But as Jesus continues to speak he says the following in v25-26:
“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.”
What a challenge!
It seems we are to look to do the things of God, look to do the work of Jesus, which is to die and be a sacrifice to the world.
How then does this relate to ministries and programs dying?
Well, maybe it is the case of having to let them die so that more fruit can come from the wider ministries of the church. And maybe, just maybe, it is the case that we are to adjust our focus to Christ and look closely at how we serve him, realigning our ministries with his.