I wrote this a year ago after some time with some former youth. I’m currently working on a sermon that brought it to mind and decided to share it again.
I’m starting my thirteenth year as a youth pastor at the same church. That is a really long time in youth ministry and a really long time as a youth pastor in the same church. I remember my current youth when they were mere babies and the first youth I had in my ministry are now having babies.
Over the thirteen years, I’ve shared countless moments with hundreds of teenagers. I honestly don’t have a number for you but I do have names. Names and faces; joys and sorrows.
It is important to remember the joys from the years. Those memories are life-giving and often help spur continued years of ministry. I recently experienced reunions with a couple of youth that had taken the Prodigal Son route and when they were ready to return home, I’m so grateful that I could help demonstrate God’s grace and love to them. I can’t capture in words how much joy that brought to my life to see them let go of baggage and grab hold of God again. It is worth it all to see them come Home, to see them shed the guilt, pain and burdens.
But I still remember the time when they “left”. When our relationship was broken or distant. And there lies some of the darkest moments for a youth pastor (and pastors and parents and pretty much any human that loves another human).
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How the Biebs feels about off-key and loud.
There is a youth in my youth group that sings loud and off key. I love his singing the most.
Because her song comes from her heart.
He is lost in the words, in the music. She is oblivious to her faltering pitch because of her joy of the experience.
I want to live life like he sings.
I want to live from the heart. I want to live oblivious to faltering because of the joy of the experience.
I want to live loud and off key.
So next time you’re near me and hear me living off key, don’t move to a different seat to maintain your perfect pitch. Scootch right up next to me and join in with me.
On Wednesday night, I was talking with the youth about our sources of significance. What or who is it that we look to to validate our worth and to prove our significance?
There is a lot of similarity between how teens and adults would answer: Relationships. Work or Grades. Success. Money. Popularity. Looks. Influence. There is a long list of fleeting things that we allow to have a lasting impact on our lives. When these things serve as our sources of significance, we live fearful, chaotic lives because we are always chasing that which can’t be caught.
It was ironic to me that Wednesday night’s youth gathering turned into a long look in the mirror regarding my source of significance. Wednesday night was off – in so many ways. Tech issues. Tired youth. Interruptions. It was one of those nights where you could sense that we were there but not really there. Some kids ignored another kid. During singing some kids were goofing off and distracting. And it made me angry and frustrated and I chewed on the kids some out of frustration.
I was trying to think later about why it made me so upset. Maybe it is because I’ve been patient for so long and then I lose it. Maybe it is because I get really angry when I see people exclude someone else. Maybe it was because I was more frustrated with myself that I was late getting things started.
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