A Different Kind of Friday Night Lights

Today, I am writing as a contributor to the Christian Writers Blog Chain. The theme for April is “Joy.” If you are a Christian author or writer, be sure to check out Christianwriters.com to network with others.

Friday Night Lights is a term that has come to describe Friday night High School football. But this past Friday night I saw a different kind of Friday night lights.

Friday Night Lights: Football

Image by Ed Schipul

Our church’s band had been invited to play at a youth rally at a nearby church. They agreed and it was decided we would bring the students from our youth group to the rally.

Seven of our students showed up expecting to have a great time of fellowship and singing songs. Little did they know what was about to happen.

During the praise and worship set, the students were actively participating. Whether it was doing the hand motions to the songs or actively entering in, they were doing it.

The real surprise came during the time at the altar.

Students were at the altar praying, asking for more of God. Suddenly, this shifted to them praying for each other, interceding on their behalf.

I can’t recall a recent time when our students chose to intercede and pray for one another publicly. It was an amazing time and I hope they bring it back to our youth group.

Breanna, Hunter, Conner, Hunter (yes, there were two Hunters), Alicia, Sierra, and Desiree I cannot express how proud you guys made this youth leader Friday night. You touched others. You brought joy to those who needed it. You let your lights shine. Keep pursuing God and great things are going to happen.

Through this experience, I gleaned four leadership insights for youth ministry.

  • You’ve got to trust that what you’ve sowed will be reaped in time:
    Youth ministry can be a tough path to follow.
    Numbers go up and down depending upon their feelings. Results of poor life choices can be seen. Sometimes you even see students go to jail or pass away.
    All the while thinking “Why am I doing this? Where are the fruits of our labor?”
    But Friday night reminded me we never know when those fruits will spring up. Prayer, intercession, love all flowed this night. The fruits became apparent.
  • Looks can be deceiving:
    Certain students can be hard to perceive properly. They may have crazy piercings and tattoos, make bad choices in their clothes, or be disrespectful.
    Yet you never know what’s really getting through to them until something like this happens.
  • A different environment can bring about different results:
    Having your students in the same environment week after week can become a hindrance.
    Familiarity creeps in. Complacency becomes the norm. But bring them to a new environment and things change.
    It’s similar to taking a different way home from work once in awhile. They’re able to see their situations in a new light.


  • Always be ready:
    To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything fantastic Friday night. I thought it would be just another youth rally for the students. Sing a few songs, clap along, and do their thing.
    The outbreak of praying, intercession, and caring was unusual. I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen.
    Thankfully there were others there who were able to get things rolling along while I composed myself and figured out what to do.
    Breakthrough rarely lets you know when it’s coming. You must be ready. You must act when it does.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.
1 Corinthians 5:6

Question: Have you ever been in a situation that was unexpected? How did you respond? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I think this is true in parenting. We often find ourselves in positions that we hadn’t completely planned. It helps though when we’ve done the prep work.

    As for being in unexpected situations, it happens. My response can sometimes depend on the nature and severity of the unexpected situation. It helps to have God’s word hidden in my heart and it helps to be surrounded by others who have my back.

    • I can see this being true in parenting as well. I can only imagine the crazy and unpredictable situations you end up with when you have children.

  • Pegg Thomas

    Joe, I don’t know if you intended this post for the CW Blog Chain, but I think it certainly fits the category of “Joy” to a T! What a great experience for these young people and you. 🙂

    • When I originally wrote it I didn’t have the intention of using it for the theme this month. But I reread it and felt it fit in great with the theme. Then I forgot to put the notice at the top. Thanks for the reminder Pegg!

  • That first one speaks volumes Joe, especially in youth work. You seem to work your tail off and see nothing. but then comes “that moment” when it all comes back to you in a word, a call, an email or some form of convo that has you saying, “Yeah, it was worth it.” You have laid the seed work. It is fun seeing the harvest. Enjoy it!”

    • Thanks Bill! Sometimes we wish “that moment” would come more frequently. But how refreshing when it does.

  • Joe, I’m happy for you that your youth group demonstrated the reaping of your sowing at the youth rally. This is an example of faithfully showing up each time, even though you may not see any results and things may seem stagnant. But over time, with repeated exposure, the results of your labor become evident.

    Think of it as seeds: the seeds you sow need time to germinate, eventually emerging from a dry, wrinkled seedling to over time watching its growth and transformation.

    Much like the seed, Friday night you observed the mystery of life unfolding. The first sign of germination is the absorption of water — lots of water. The first sign of germination, spiritually speaking, is the absorption of the gospel — lots of gospel.

    • Thomas, you speak wise words in your comment! It’s a gradual growth that many people expect to happen all at once.

    • great analogies thomas! That is def. the feeling in youth ministry…that “you ay not see any results and things may seem stagnant”. I just had a convo with a buddy of mine who is bring to help students experience God through worship. He’s bringing in solid worship leaders, engaging songs with the sermon, and attempting to include students. No response. He is frustrated. Yet he approached a student and said do you like the worhop time and the stunde staid emphatically (the same student my buddy saw hunched over off to the side) yes, I love worship….its my favorite time!

      haha, allowing those seeds to take roots, and we may not see it, but God is giving growth in his time. We get to be conduits in the process!

      • That’s a great story David! One that happens time and time again.

        Many times students don’t express their worship in the way we expect them to. I know I didn’t growing up. I would sit in the back, arms crossed, looking upset. Yet it touched me. I think this goes back to the saying Garbage In, Garbage Out. It also applies to Good Things In, Good Things Out.

  • With God, all things are possible — even an outpouring of His Spirit. Awesome insights!

    • True Stevie! And that is what we saw on Friday night.

  • What a great message of encouragement and joy!

    • So glad you enjoyed it Debra. Have you ever experienced a moment like this?

  • Mike

    Joseph, I totally get you on #1. I work with youth all day every day. I call it pushing on the blob. It’s like this house is filled with a giant blob and I’m at the doorway, if I push on it some will come out from another door or window. I don’t see it, but I must trust that my effort is producing results. God will sometimes give us that glimpse, but most times we won’t see it until we are in eternity. Keep pushing…

    • I absolutely love your depiction Mike. I’ll have to share that with the youth pastor and other leaders of our youth group. Such a messy, perfect example of youth leadership.

      What keeps you pushing when the results seem so messy and sporadic?

  • I feel like I’m in a situation right now that is completetly unexpected to me. It shouldn’t be because I know what my Lord is capable of! Really excited to hear about your youth group Joe!

    • I know Kimanzi. It’s great seeing the fruits of your labor finally springing up. While it has no real affect on me, it’s exciting to see your progress.

      What has kept you pushing forward even when things didn’t look like they were moving forward?

      • The thing that pushed me was the fact that I couldn’t keep “exisitng” I wanted to truly live my life!

        • Great reason to push forward my friend. And it worked well for you!

  • Jack

    keep digging the wells and in His time God will fill them
    Biiiiiiiiiiig hug

  • Terrie Thorpe

    Joe, I like to live in expectancy of what the Lord will do and can do, but many times I find myself just where you were – jaw dropped! I know the Lord is continually working behind the scenes working out the details, stirring hearts and showering us all with His love. Things like your “Friday night’ are icing!
    This is what the Lord keeps speaking to my heart-“Keep going no matter what you feel, keep loving even if it’s not returned, and keep believing and you will see miracles!” This is where I keep my focus. Great post ! Peace and blessings

    • The Lord has spoken a great word to you Terrie. How do you keep going when the trials start to pile up?

  • Sounds like a great experience- love it when God exceeds our expectations!

    I like that you pointed out looks can be deceiving- our culture focuses too much on looks and not enough on character! My spouse is an example of this- tattoos and piercings often have people judging incorrectly!!!

    • It was TC. Totally blew my mind that night.

      It’s so sad but true. We’re a people that like to judge the outward appearance. Thankfully God said He looks on the inside!

      Thanks for sharing that about your spouse. I guess I didn’t see you having a spouse like that. But that is awesome that you do.

      • I’m smiling- no one thinks of me as having a spouse like this (especially if you met me) but God is amazing and He gave me the perfect person to spend my life with, one devoted to serving God and others.

        • That’s great TC! It’s always interesting to be in a relationship like that. Sounds like yours is very similar to ours.

          My wife was/is pretty straight-laced and serious. I, on the other hand, was always involved with music, tattoos, etc.

          I think it helps balance each other out.

          • I think so too- definitely makes life more interesting! Thanks for sharing about your relationship.

  • This is excellent! God is so good. This makes me think of 1 Corinthians 5:6 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” Our God is so very faithful!

    • Great verse Sandi. I’m adding it to the post!

  • E G Lewis

    Good list for parents as well as people working with youth. So often we encounter God in unexpected ways and unexpected places.
    Peace and Blessings

    • I agree E G. And so often He’s ready to blow the lid off of our expectations. How has He done that for you?

  • KirraAntrobus

    What a great experience to see fruit from your work!

    • It was Kirra. How have you seen the fruit of your faithfulness?

  • Carol Peterson

    Wow, that’s a powerful experience. Yes, I’ve been in places where the Lord has clearly been moving–sometimes because He used me; more often in spite of me.

    So glad to hear you’re encouraged. Stay the path. Kids notice. They grow. And God loves them through it all.

    • I’m so glad God loves them through it all. Lord knows some of them have been through the wringer. His love never fails them.

  • It’s not only folks in the ministry who feel this way…All the while thinking “Why am I doing this? Where are the fruits of our labor?”

    At work lately I’m feeling like I’m hitting my head against a wall only getting the pain and frustration and wondering when real results will occur.

    • Great point Chris. I hope you get to see results at your work soon. Frustration at work is very stressful. I’ll be praying for your breakthrough!

  • Joe I can’t think off of the top of my head of an instance, but I do know that GOD was moving. THe friday night seemed like a powerful outing and having the teens surprise you like that. Your Leadership and non judgmental attitude is making a difference. Keep it up.

    • Lincoln, as long as you know that God is moving, that’s all that matters.

  • Tracy Krauss

    This was an excellent post. As someone who works with youth I have learned to stop judging the book by its cover. Clothes, jewellery and tattoos are all just signs of the current culture, not a person;s inner spiritual state. As well, I liked how you told about the moment that God took over the service. Its when we let go of our own agenda that great things happen.

    • Letting go of the judgement is probably the hardest thing to do with youth ministry. I’m glad that you’ve been able to do that and touch the lives of your youth Tracy. Keep it up!

  • I wish more unexpected opportunities like these came around! I am incredibly encouraged by students reacting in such a way and as you said, God gives the growth. Constantly praying for God to do the work, and sad to say, not as often revealing my lack of trust. Oh for greater trust.

    To your question, role with it. The most recent example for my life is that we’ve opened our house for home group and the typical routine is come hang out, get the group going, close in prayer for each other and some post game hang out again and roll home.

    This time, the leader got going and went 30/45 minutes past. Not a lot but unexpected. Some people left, but those that stayed I would say were blessed. The ones that left stuck to the normal time, weren’t feeling good, and we could have shut it down, but he kept rocking it and not quite to the extent of praise and worship, but a genuine experience of the church as struggles were shared and prayer happened! thanks joe, looking forward to more good stuff about student ministry 🙂

    • David, that is great that you guys just roll with God’s movement! Glad to hear your groups are experiencing a great movement of God as well.

  • Love #1…you get out of life what you put into life. So true!

  • I have found you don’t always see the reaping of what you have sown. While your in the middle of it, it’s some time hard to see the impact your making. Especially while working in the youth ministry. This is why it’s important for us to always remember the law of reaping and sowing.

    This story is another example of how we can learn for every situation and circumstance. I have really enjoyed how you pull in life experiences and share your thoughts about them. Great post!!!!

    • Right Dan! And I think that’s why we need to remember what the bible says: I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.

      We all have our parts in the sowing and reaping of the crop. We don’t know which until the end.

  • Terrific post, Joe. What a blessing to be present for such a wonderful moment.

    • Thanks Traci! Have you ever experienced such a moment?

  • Man… so cool that God chose to work in this way in the lives of your students, and awesome that you were able to bring it home for the rest of us. Thanks, Joe!

    • I know Stephen! It was such an amazing experience to see. I hope and pray every leader gets to see something similar to this.