It’s a been strange week and by strange, I mean God was up to something.
Earlier in the week I was writing this article about how it’s really the students and volunteers who build the culture of the youth ministry. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and decided to post a short thank you, on Facebook, to the many amazing students and leaders I’ve had over the years.
I tagged a few leaders and students from across the may youth groups I’ve led and hit post. I am not the kind of person who seeks flattery so I wasn’t writing it to get comments, but the comments came and they were beautiful and heart felt.
I thought about the people and knew I could not tag everyone, that would have been close to 100 people, but I did think about one student, Hannah, who hit the heart button and I felt bad, asking myself, “Why didn’t I tag her, she was awesome?”
This is where the strangeness begins.
The next day I had lunch with a friend and I got there 10 minutes early. As I sat there reading the menu behind the counter, in walks Hannah. I hadn’t seen Hannah in several years but I knew it was her. We locked eyes and smiled and gave each other a big hug.
Flashback to 15 minutes earlier where my wife and I were discussing youth ministry and I confessed to her, “I am a broken man. No one believes in me. I have no champions in my industry to help me along so I can advance the kingdom and maybe make some extra money.” You see, I am still a youth pastor after 30 years and it still doesn’t pay well, in fact, it pays less.
I was discouraged as I left the house not really knowing that my feelings were pretty still raw.
Back to the present. Hannah and she shared a story with me that she said she was going to comments but didn’t. She said, “I remember when you first came to our church and you sent me, and some others, a post card that said, “I hear you’re a leader. Let’s get together.That was a big day, no one had ever thought of me as a leader.”
Tears began streaming down my face. Those raw emotions began to leak out and I could not stop them. I was embarrassed. I thought I was being an old, sentimental fool. She did not see it that way, She then apologized to me for being a turd, her words. We had a struggle of wills and she wound up leaving the youth ministry. That was a hard day.
I told her,” Nothing to forgive.” and she thanked me for my wife and I’s grace towards her during that time. She asked how I was doing. She was not aware that I was STILL in youth ministry. I told her I was doing good and trying to get to the next level and then I told her the short story of the 3 men on a construction site.
There was a man who asked 3 different brick layers what they were doing,
The first man said, “working hard to feed my family”
The second man said, “building a wall”
The third man said, “I am building a beautiful cathedral where God will be glorified”
I told Hannah, I wanted to not just remain useful but be the third man and build something beautiful.
That’s when Hannah said, “But you are. We, all of your students, are your cathedral.”
The tears came again as the smell of brisket filled the room.
I felt like even a bigger fool after the conversation I had with my wife.
If you are a youth pastor reading this, all I can tell you is, expand your vision. Don’t just survive, or build a big youth ministry, build something beautiful.
God is our champion.