Seventh grade is kind of a big deal for a Baptist kid. You finally cross over into the youth group. The youth sit together in church. They go on late night excursions. They go to camp. They talk about dating and drugs. You finally lose the “child” label and begin to settle into a new classification, feeling one step closer to a grownup.
Of course, when you first transition to youth, you’re the low man on the totem pole. And here’s the kicker: Daniel and I just transitioned to youth!!
After nine years of children’s ministry, we’ve graduated to the big kids. It is still new, and each week, we work out more kinks, but it’s a little intimidating if we’re being honest. For starters, the word “bong” never came up in children’s ministry! Buckle up!
When I was in eighth grade, we got a new youth minister. I loved my first one. He planned fun nights where we made “the world’s largest banana split” in rain gutters or “the world’s largest milkshake”- stirred with oars in a (new) trashcan. We all signed the oars, and he managed to insert “oar not” into each lesson. He encouraged us to memorize Scripture. He took us rock climbing. I was devastated when he felt the Lord’s calling to another church. I didn’t think anyone would ever match what he was for us. But then we met Jess.
My youth pastor, Jess, was the first person to teach me about quiet time with the Lord. I still remember him encouraging me to read Proverbs since it has 31 chapters, and it would help me get on a regular routine of reading the Bible every day. It’s advice I’ve continued to pass along. Jess solved several fights between me and my BFF- usually over silly things like our mutual attraction to a boy at camp. Who we may or may not have given the number to Pizza Hut to instead of our own. He saw me through my first break up and my last before I met Daniel. He was goofy with us and serious with us, depending on what we needed. He showed up to our dance performances. He showed us what it meant to fast and to pray. He was real with us.
I was skeptical when he came to our youth group. (He was an Aggie, so I didn’t completely count him out!) But ultimately, I didn’t want change. I didn’t want to accept someone new. But the Lord brought our youth group a true gift. And here I am, stepping into some incredible shoes of the youth ministers before us, wondering how we will be accepted and how I can continue the amazing work they started.
The good news? God knows. God placed this calling on our hearts, and while that doesn’t mean it will be easy, it means He’s prepared our places. The youth now were my children a few years ago. I know the younger versions of the teenagers that now sit in the youth room. We’ve got some catching up to do, but our time, so far, has been sweet.
I’m moving from teaching David and Goliath to David and Bathsheba. I’m adjusting to God loves you, even when you make mistakes, to God loves you even though you’ve made mistakes. I’m helping them prepare for the day they will have to stand up for their faith. I’m helping them define their faith. And one day, they might just get me to go to youth camp!
Our youth group from almost twenty years ago (yikes!) was made up of some of my favorite people. We’ve seen each other through high school, college, marriage, babies, heartbreak, moves, missions, and career paths. Sometimes through Facebook, sometimes though real life. It’s a special bond that I can’t explain. I’m excited, and a little scared, to be in this new role, but I’m so grateful to be a part of it.
1 Timothy 4:12 says “Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (CSB) Daniel and I are young in this avenue of church ministry, but we will work hard to set an example for the students God has placed in our youth room. We will work hard to teach our youth that they have examples to offer to those behind them as well. And we will work REALLY hard to stay up past 10pm.
Pray for us, please!
We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future. Franklin D. Roosevelt