Early this fall, we on the youth staff went over all of our programs and categorized them under the six Healthy Plate Discipleship categories. We naturally had more in some categories than others, just as a byproduct of being a ministry for teenagers (lots of play, for example). The category that we had the least amount of offerings in? Give. Because only a limited number of teenagers in our church have any sort of regular income, and because teenagers are usually more drawn to hands-on ways of giving back than financial gifts, we just managed to miss that way of offering up discipleship opportunities. So we came up with a very simple idea: the Be-the-Change Bucket. It’s a small bucket we keep on the stage, and every week invite students to drop extra change in it, so we can use the money to buy whatever the mission needs that week.
The results for the first couple months were, well, a little underwhelming. Honestly, there were a lot of weeks when it was completely empty. No criticism to our teenagers is intended; most of them don’t carry much cash, and it was a totally new thing we just announced one day. We were OK with the result, though; the point was that the opportunity to give was there and that we were reminding them of it.
And then, this Sunday night, a seventh-grade girl named Ainsley walked up to me. With no fanfare whatsoever, she handed me a sandwich bag, full to bursting with change.
“It’s for the bucket. I’ve forgotten to bring it the last couple weeks, but here.”
I dropped the bag of change in the bucket and it made the most satisfying clashing and clinking noise. I smiled a little.
My mentor once told me that the key to success in youth ministry is “repeated failure with undiminished enthusiasm.” So we will continue to remind kids to drop change in a bucket, and most of the time they won’t. But in the name of Healthy Plate Discipleship, and good youth ministry, our enthusiasm will not be diminished. Because the bags of change collected by seventh-grade girls, or the few fishes and loaves offered up by a boy to feed thousands, are what God uses in the most powerful ways.