Many of you know that I am privileged to be a youth pastor/youth director at a small church in Studio City, California.
It has been one of the scariest and most rewarding adventures of my life. And as with most life altering experiences, it was unplanned. Never in a million years would I have thought of being a youth pastor. And definitely not a unmarried youth pastor. *Insert painful laugh here*
Four years ago, I gave God all my reasons why I shouldn't be a youth pastor. The main reasons being, I couldn't fit into a mold, and I wouldn't know what the heck I'd be doing. I'm pretty sure I heard God say, "Perfect" and chuckle.
My first day, I was uber awkward, and there was about 2 teenagers. But after that first youth "meeting", I felt amazing. I was hooked. Yes, I didn't know what I was doing, and I clearly didn't fit into a mold, but I felt something that I hadn't felt in a long time. Faith.
I could no longer rely on my own intellect, logic, or charismatic ability to determine and fix all of the possible scenarios. I truly had to excercise faith. Every Sunday.
I spent nights crying in fear that I would permanently damage or confuse the young minds and hearts of tomorrow through the midst of my learning to be a leader.
And that is when God's grace would meet me in unexpected ways. And I began to receive God's love for myself for the first time in a long time. God wanted to give of Himself uniquely to me through this adventure. And for me, this has become the sole reason and motivation for me being a youth pastor. I experience an intense closeness with God, like no other, by being a vulnerable youth pastor.
I've learned more about patience, selflessness, love, faith, and identity by spending time with some of the most amazing teenagers on the planet. They are incredibley intelligent, extremely expressive, witty, and hopeful for the future that they will inherit. I have been so blessed to know that there are people on this planet like them.
What started out as 2 teenagers on an awkward Sunday, has now blossomed into 20 teenagers (Ranging from Jr. High to High School) that have captured my heart, my time, and my attention. And not just on Sundays.
The one harsh reality about walking through life with teenagers is their constant mood swings. One week they feel as though they can conquer the world and love you to pieces. And the next week they are angry at the world and want to give up.
If I'm not careful, I find myself swinging back and forth with their uncertainties and mood swings, which in turn brings about fear, the true enemy of love.
Before becoming a person surrounded by teenagers, I had forgotten what it was like to constantly search for identity and purpose with such intensity. I had also forgotten the constant battle of trust that teenagers go through, especially if they've been let down their whole lives. It becomes extremely difficult for them to not only trust me, but the reality and notion that they are Loved.
Because when you know that you are loved, your actions are governed by something so much more beautiful and life-giving than fear could ever do.
Most of what I teach is birthed out of that simple truth: You are already loved. You were loved by God before the foundations of the earth. You were loved before you had a plan for your life. You were loved before you got your act together. You were loved before you decided in your mind that you were ugly. You were and are loved.
The message of Love is not only difficult to teach to teenagers, but even more difficult to live out with integrity. I know I have failed many times, and at times, in front of those very teenagers.
But if it wasn't for the amazing family of leaders around me (Rick, Pam, Dina, Jess, David, Toby, Eric, Michelle, Kim L., Sarah, Sandy, and Pat) I would have dropped out of sight and off course a long time ago. These folks deserve a blog all unto themselves. Which will happen later this year.
I have no idea how long I will be a youth pastor, heck, I had no idea I'd be one in the first place. But what I do know, is that my life has been changed for the better, because I simply said in my heart first, "Yes, if no one else will do it...I'll do it."
It was faith that hooked me into this crazy adventure with God, but it in the end, it will be Love that sustains me.
Words of Wisdom:
Though the wind my blow and arrows may fly, remember to stay the course.