Where Are They Now?

337_549927763798_344_nMeet Jake and Nicole…two grown ups I had the privilege of knowing as teenagers.  These high school sweethearts are now raising kids of their own, navigating the challenges of marriage, parenthood, careers, and all the things that smell so sweet as students…but really just stink of sweat, blood, and tears once you get there.

This week, Jake and Nicole passed through Corpus Christi (well, sort of….they actually detoured through Corpus) so we could have lunch together.  It’s always such an honor to spend a few minutes wading through the adult lives of teenagers who kept the faith and are walking it well.  And though their faithfulness to Him has everything to do with who they are and the investment made by their parents, there are a few things youth workers can do to help develop students who remain committed to Christ into their adulthood.

1.  Give them space to ask questions….and wrestle out their own answers.  (Even if those answers don’t always run parallel to your own.)

2.  Create room for REAL friendships that thrive on accountability and challenge.  (That means more than pizza, basketball, and Bible study.)

3,  Affirm and bless what you see.  (Your influence MUST go beyond a fist bump and stupid joke.)

4.  Make opportunities to serve.  (Both inside and outside your church – and then ask them about those opportunities.)

5.  Underestimate your influence.  (It’s always the work of the Holy Spirit that draws students into relationship with Himself!)

As we finished up our much-too-short visit, I thanked Jake for buying lunch.  (They rarely do that when they’re teenagers!)  He said something like “You paid for that meal years ago.”‘

No, Jake, those days were just redeemed by God – and I am beyond grateful that I just got to see God do His thing….

REAL Youth Ministry Community

giftsYouth workers.  Answer this.  Do you live in TRUE community with people?  I don’t mean church members.  I’m not considering students.  I’m talking about folks you can be totally authentic around…and who get it.  Do you live in true community with other youth workers?

Let me tell you something….I do.  For the first time in  over 20 years, I know TRUE community with my youth ministry colleagues.  The letters in this photo show it.

We’ve had some ‘hard knocks’ in ministry – some people would call them sucker punches to the throat – these past few years.  You know what I mean if you been in church work longer than four days.  People you served and loved and walked alongside who just ripped the rug out from under you….by cutting your legs off.

A few years prior to this series of unfortunate events, we were introduced to a group of youth workers across the country.  We were blessed to begin developing relationship with them.  Little did we know why God had brought them into our lives.  For such a time as this.

Evaluate your youth ministry cadre of companions!

1.  Do you know anything personal about them?  If you don’t know about their kids – their spouse’s name – or some of their insecurities….you aren’t in true community.

2.  Have you spent time together working?  If you haven’t spent some time dreaming and doing youth ministry together…even if it’s just the sharing of ideas….you aren’t in true community.  We live and breathe that stuff — it can’t be extricated from the friendship!

3.  Have you ONLY spent time working together?  Then you aren’t in true community.  If all your network of ministry buddies does is plan community events, you aren’t in community – you’re in a co-op.

4.  Have you ever prayed aloud with one another?  Really?  You should.  Nothing builds community like gathering two or three together and calling on the One who shows up when we do that.

5.  Have your spouses ever met?  Listen – they need community more than we ever did!  Get those girls (or guys) together!!!

Last week, Katie and I were talking about our friends.  We were wondering how much longer it was going to take for outside observers to start acting like Job’s ‘friends’…wondering what we were doing (or did) wrong to have to endure this season…

My community had no idea we were in that dark, dysfunctional place.  And they showed up by the prompting of the Holy Spirit – laid out before the beginning of time – for such a time as this.  Not one condemnation.  Not one accusation.  Not one doubt about our faithfulness or fortitude to follow Christ EXACTLY how He’s asked us to…into the hard place this time.

THAT’S community – and if you’re a youth pastor – you need to get some.  The letters are still coming.

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