Over the summer I normally try to post a couple things that I learned over the previous school year. If you want see the series as it has developed over lots of years then click here.
Most of the “This Year” posts are about something I learned and basically “figured out”. This one is different. I don’t have it figured out.
Since the advent of social media good YL leaders have learned to keep smart boundaries while also making the most of it to connect with students. In doing so many of us become “friends” with students.
I opened my Facebook account back in 2007 (for this post I’ll use Facebook, but it could be any social media platform). Over time I became friends with a lot of my YL guys and sadly there are many people that I do not see in person but only through Facebook. On one hand, I am really glad Facebook allows us to keep in touch, even if only minimally. On the other hand, it can be really discouraging to see some of them who are giving the appearance that their lives are far from walking with Christ. I also realize the dynamic that Facebook really does not tell a full story of how a person is doing, it likely only tells us what people want to project about themselves.
Facebook can be a relentless discouragement machine for long-term YL leaders. Though I have some ideas to counter that thought, the reality for me is that it still just sucks to see people not experiencing God’s best for their lives. I also will frequently have flashbacks to pivotal conversations I’ve had with people years ago where they had a choice to go one way or another and they decided to go down, what I thought was, the wrong path. I’m tempted to say “I told you so! Look at how unhappy you are now. It breaks my heart to watch this.”
Though the discouragement is real, here are few ways I’ve learned to deal with this:
I use Facebook as a reminder to pray for my old YL friends, especially those who are struggling.
I occasionally use Facebook to reach out and reconnect. Most of the time it is through a message I send them. Other times we meet up. In truth, I wish I did this more.
I am reminded that I am not the Lord, and that the Lord loves my friends more than I do, and that the Lord is the Good Shepherd in whom I can trust.
That the gospel is broader than a singular moment and that I simply don’t see what is really happening spiritually.
Being a long-term YL leader has been one of the biggest blessings I could ever imagine. Riding the ups and downs of relationships is part of the journey and keeps us spiritually fit through forcing us to keep depending on the Lord in ways we could never imagine otherwise.
I’d love to hear back from you on this. Am I alone in this? Do you experience this? How do you respond?
Looking for summer camp follow-up/campaigners resources? Look here.
Looking for a way to get contact work started in the Fall? Look here.