We all know that kid. The one who comes from an awesome, Christ-centered family. The one who is there every Sunday and Wednesday. The one who actually responds to your event-reminder texts. The one who unabashedly worships Jesus with their arms raised. The one you don’t have to worry about…

Hit the brakes! How many times have we reassured ourselves that “that kid” isn’t the one we need to invest in, pray deeply for, and spend quality time with? I confess that I too have been a victim of this mindset, but I think we need to evaluate the way we invest in students’ lives. I have fallen in the trap of investing all of my time and energy in the “problem child”. In turn, the rest of the students get a drained, frustrated, and empty vessel named Karina.


Don’t assume that any student has it all together.

Because none of us do. I think that we would all agree that even as youth ministers, we need someone to speak into our lives. Why would we think that teenagers are any different? If even on the surface they seem to have it all together, you do not know what area of sin they are struggling with. Maybe it’s a less overt sin than that of the kid posting crass selfies on Instagram. Perhaps it is a silent struggle that they are ashamed to share, but would be willing to if someone would just ask.


The student who “you don’t need to worry about”, is most likely begging to be invested in.

Maybe there’s a reason they are there every week. They want to be more involved, hands-on, and discipled. They’re hungry to know the living God and want to go deeper. While I was having late-night conversations with the student who had crisis #6,732, I didn’t notice that the other student needed me to teach them how to pray, evangelize, and serve. Our minds immediately go to: new program, new event, or additional meetings. However, the easiest way (and perhaps the most effective way) to do this is to invite them into what you’re already doing. Ask that student to come early to set up for youth group night. Ask them to help you clean up afterwards. Offer them to join you during your event planning time. Invite them to serve with you during Sunday morning service.


This doesn’t mean you ignore the students who are facing crisis.

I’m not encouraging anyone to ignore the “problem children”. I’m not saying that students aren’t facing legitimate crisis – far from it. What I am saying is to be aware of which students you haven’t spent an iota of time on because you thought they were okay. It’s a simple “how are you doing…really?”, “is there something you really need prayer for?”, “how would you describe your relationship with Jesus right now?” It is amazing the types of in-depth conversations you can have just by asking the right questions.

Personally, I get burnt out hearing that we need to do more and do better. That’s not what this article is about. I hope that this serves as an encouragement that all that you may need to do is shift your perspective, not your schedule. We’ve all answered the call to serve these students and I think that’s honorable. But let’s be careful about falling into the emotionally-draining traps in ministry. Let’s strike a good balance of reaching out to the one lost sheep but not forgetting to attend to the rest of the flock. Let’s remember to ask the Great Shepherd to help us be the shepherds that he has called us to be.