The black smoke of youth ministry

A fellow youthworker, who is also a pilot, recently wrote:

Smoke draws your attention. It’s not every day I see a billowing column of black smoke as I fly over the ridge just north of our runway, so I perked up.

My first impulse was to break from the pattern and cruise over to check it out. The smoke was coming from a large train depot south of the airfield, and you can fly over a lot easier than trying to get close in a car. Unfortunately, I was already cleared to land, and I was one of several aircraft in the pattern. Plus, cruising at low altitudes over fires can have negative side effects, like crashing or losing your pilot’s license.

While all of this was racing through my mind I was still approaching the ground at about ten feet per second. Wondering about the fire was fun, but it sure made it tough to concentrate on the runway. So, when the going gets tough, the training kicks in. I focused on marrying plane to pavement in an orderly fashion and thankfully did not contribute a second column of smoke to the horizon.

I did, however, realize how similar that situation is to my work with youth. I have a job to do — mentor students to know, love, and follow Jesus Christ. When distractions crop up, like a pile of burning railroad ties, it’s easy to lose focus. But it’s better to land the plane.