I’ve just arrived home from our church youth group and it was a very sad drive home. It wasn’t because of torrential rain or melancholy music, but because it was my last drive home serving as youth pastor.
A few years back I was listening to a podcast by a preacher out of the US. He was a youth pastor and it was one of his last sermons, if not his last. He was soon to receive a promotion, but he explained he’d been hesitant to accept it because he loved his youth role so much.
I remember being impressed with his passion and commitment. Youth ministry is a church department where many are ambitious for ‘more important work’ such as assistant or even senior pastor titles. By contrast this man was not blind with ambition but motivated by love for the youth in his church.
I think that sermon was for me. I was ambitious to ‘change the world’ (I still am) but God was reminding me that I do it by loving the people he’s put in front of me. All ministry starts with loving people.
I’m now thrilled to say I love the youth I’ve come to serve. All of them. I know them well and some I’m just getting to know, but I love them and I’m going to miss them.
I’ll miss the many exciting adventures. I’ll miss the late night McDonalds runs. I’ll miss the late night dance parties. I’ll miss broken walls and windows. I’ll miss being laughed at for saying inappropriate stuff. I’ll miss the wrestling matches and jousting. I’ll miss wild camps when God supernaturally changed people (though I have one more camp to run in a few months).
There is so much I’ll miss. I’ll miss being immature. I know I can still do some of these things but it’s who I did it with that made it great.
Perhaps the biggest thing I’ll miss is seeing young people get their own faith for the first time. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s AMAZING! I love to see young people make their parents faith their own, or to see them come to faith for the first time ever. You can see the light turn on. It’s wonderful.
Often their faith is new and pure. They haven’t made compromises. They haven’t experienced the disappointment of falling over. They haven’t been stretched by life’s demands. Their faith is fresh and without guile. Like a baby Pokémon hatching… (yes I just said that).
I love journeying with youth as they spread their wings and take risks. I love seeing them pray for the sick, go on missions trips, share about Jesus, and witness miracles. Literal miracles. It’s very exciting.
Somewhere along the way, however, there needs to be a growing and maturing. I’m not saying the above ceases, but that it’s built upon: The weight and privilege of responsibility must rest on us all. We grow up. We stop eating our own food and start feeding others. We stop living on the back great men and women of faith, we start being the great men and women of faith on behalf of others.
Do you see my point?
This is not Neverland. We must mature and grow because we are tomorrows leaders. We must stand and fight for faith in Jesus. We must follow Gods call and purpose. Just as every youth must experience this, I must too, which is why my days as youth pastor have come to an end.
My time to mature into the next season has come and I’m nervous. I’m afraid I’ll fail. I’m afraid I’ll fall over again. I’m afraid I’ll compromise my passion. But what kind of leader would I be if I ran from the call of God? I must be brave and bid farewell. So I will.
Thank you then, to everyone who has been part of my youth pastor journey in the last few years. Thanks to those leaders who helped demonstrate Jesus, thanks to the youth who stuck through long worship sessions and aimless ramblings. Thanks to everyone who made it a sad drive home.
God bless. I’ll see most of you on Sunday.