In 1997 i met a student at Computech Middle School while I was running an on-campus club with Youth for Christ. Her name is Ariana Lucija Teteris. We called her Ari. She was smart and mature for her age and she was good at making friends with all of the adults at the club as well as other students. Over the course of the next two years while she was in Middle School she became a trusted leader of our group and even a friend. I respected (and still do) her relationship with God and she has always been one of those students it was easy to have a conversation with.
This photo is when we bumped into each other at a concert while she was in college. It is not from her Middle School years, but it was our oldest photo I could find. One day we had a conversation after club. I will recall it in Facebook dialogue to appear more relevant.
Ari: Jeff what are you drinking?
Jeff : Coffee
Ari: Ugh I hate coffee
Jeff : You say that now, but you will drink coffee in the next 10 years.
Ari : No I won’t.
Jeff : I bet you will.
Ari : How much?
Jeff : $10 and a cup of coffee.
Later she had drafted this document…For some reason that I cannot recall we didn’t sign it until 2001 when she was in High School and helping on a MIddle School Trip. She brought witnesses and made copies for me (which I still have) and also taped it to her closet as it was now a part of her history and future.
I would never encourage you to bet your students or try to get them to drink coffee, but this seemed harmless enough in 1998. Over the course of the next 10+ years she reminded me that we would be drinking coffee while I gave her 10 shiny dollar bills. She told other people about this. Some of her friends tried to trick her into drinking coffee. If I remember correctly, we had to add an amendment where she also could not have coffee ice cream (letter of the law…not the heart). With her strong resolution, and the lengths she went to make a contract I knew that I had lost this bet before I had began it. Between growing up, me moving to Davis, and life getting in the way I did not make good on my bet 10 years later. However, before moving away from Fresno to take a job as High School Pastor at ROCKHARBOR in Costa Mesa last August, she tracked me down. While I was packing office boxes, Ari drove to me, caught me up on life, her boyfriend, her family, her faith, and her job as a teacher. Below, you will see the coffee I made her (she still hates it) and the ten dollars I gladly paid up. It was well worth the story and the connection made between two now adult friends.
This is why I do youth ministry. I love to build relationship with students at crucial and impressionable times in their life. I then have the honor to tell them about the most important decision they can make to place their faith in Christ and all He has done. Not all of them do, but I love the relationships all the same.
Make memories with your students (again, not bets). However, mark those moments that root your lives together. We can never calculate the impact that we make on each other, but we can make the effort and pray for the return. Even if it is to make good on a bet!