Over the past year I've made the move out of youth ministry. I started in youth ministry really when I was in college, I assisted our volunteer youth leader in our student ministry...all 5 of them. It was fun and afforded me the opportunity to serve at youth camps during the summer. It was at a youth camp where I first understood God calling me to be a pastor. Naturally, at the time I felt a calling towards youth ministry. This calling eventually led me to become a youth pastor at Eureka Church of the Nazarene in Eureka, IL in 2001. To this day I am amazed that I was trusted with this role...I really didn't know what I was doing.
Regardless, I was clear on one thing...the message. In addition to the gospel I wanted every student to know that God has created them for a plan and a purpose. Overtime I was allowed the opportunity to communicate this message to students from 2001-2006 at Eureka Church of the Nazarene. Then 2006-2013 at BridgeWay Community Church in Tazwell Co. IL. That's 12 whole years! And it makes me feel old. Especially knowing that many students have since graduated college, are enjoying careers, and are parents, youth workers, and even pastors themselves...crazy!
In 2013 it became clear that my time in youth ministry would be ending or at least looking different, as I've come to embrace the fact that God has gifted me towards leadership development and such. Youth ministry wasn't the easiest thing to give up really...but it was time to get out of the way and let some other leaders shine...and boy are they ever!!!
The reason it's so hard to give up is because I really enjoy mentoring students through the "awkward" years trying to figure out who they are, and more importantly who they are in Christ. To get to be a mentoring voice into that and have students actually come back and thank you later for the time you invested mentoring them is extremely rewarding. I'll never miss lock-ins but mentoring is the stuff I will miss.
However, this week as my oldest daughter began 7th grade it's really hit me - I'm still a youth pastor. The same things I mentored other students through, I now get to do as a parent. In one short week we've navigated issues like finding a group of friends you can hang with, feeling paranoid people are talking about you, being nervous you won't make the team, figuring out who to sit with at lunch, being faced with religious differences of opinions, and gasp finding out someone might like you. I knew these days would come but all in one week?!? Is she ready for this? Am I ready for this? This youth pastor thought especially hit me today as I sent Anna this text for her to read on her bus ride to school.
Me: "I love you. Did you make it to the bus in time?"
Me: "Have a great day! Make a friend. Smile a lot. Make others better and you will find friends. Love who you are because you are amazing! Regardless of what anyone else thinks. It's the truth!!! You are made by God for a plan and a purpose. #bam #truth"
Anna: "I just had to take a screen shot of that"
Anna: "And yes I'm on the bus"
Anna: "I love you so much"
Words I've shared with tons of students, I now actually get to speak into the life of my 7th grader. In that one text was the realization I had when I held her for the first time "I'm responsible for directing this child towards relationship with her creator". And I don't want to screw this up - because parents really are the ultimate pastors to their kids. I'm choosing not to fear parenting in the teenage years but enjoy them for all that they are because in a way, I get to be a youth pastor once again. And not just anyone's youth pastor, but youth pastor to my most favorite 7th grader on the planet. All the while being totally amazed that I have been trusted with this role...I really don't know what I'm doing.