8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:8-15)
For the shepherds it was just another night on the hills above Bethlehem. Their work in protecting their flocks was important but routine. God had been at work since ages past but for the shepherds there was no warning of what was to happen. The intervention was as sudden as it was dramatic, and their response was immediate: “Let’s go!”
Youth ministry can be routine. There are meetings to attend, publicity to prepare, and programmes to run. Even the programmes themselves can become predictable – a time of worship, a prayer, a Bible study and a message. Some of this is unavoidable but we should never let our expectation of the outcomes be routine. Such routine expectations are the opposite of faith. As youth leaders pursue and anticipate the “sudden” through faith filled prayer. Long for it in your meetings and in the lives of the young people you lead, and never allow a sense of routine dull your faith in the “sudden”. The “sudden” is unlikely to involve choirs of angels. It may in fact be barely perceptible as God whispers an insight to a young person or brings comfort to another who is hurting.
Yet when we see the ‘sudden” our cry must be “Let’s go!” Set aside preconceived plans, drop everything and follow God’s presence. It changes lives and even transforms whole youth ministries.
Reflection: How has routine and predictability stifled your faith in God’s power to suddenly impact your young people and your youth ministry? Do you find yourself thinking, “Just another youth group meeting”? Identify examples of the “sudden” in your youth ministry and in your young people, and use the remembrance of these to build faith for the future.