Fifteen Minutes

Youth ministry is a wild ride.  Next month will mark ten years of full time youth ministry – it’s hard to believe it’s gone by so fast!  It’s full of highs and lows, frustrations and celebrations, joy and heartache.

The other week I had an intense fifteen minutes.  It was the end of the day, I was watching the opening of the Simply Youth Ministry conference (they were streaming it live online), wishing I was there.  A lot of my youth ministry friends and peers were there and it would have been a blast to be with them!

Anyway, the Skit Guys were performing their skit ‘The Chair,’ an incredible ode to youth pastors that always moves me.  I actually always get nostalgic watching it because a few years ago I saw them perform it live at a Youth Specialties conference, and one of my former students who was studying to be a youth pastor was triggered by the skit to come and give me the most incredible thank you for the influence I had in his life as a youth pastor – it was one of the highlights of my time in ministry thus far.

The skit finished, I was overwhelmed with memories, wondering if I really begin to measure up to the values laid out in the skit when my phone rang.  It was a mob of middle school kids hanging out together on a Friday night deciding to prank call their youth pastor!  For the next few minutes they were all passing around the phone, laughing, teasing me, making goofy jokes … I totally felt loved!  As bizarre as it might sound (other youth workers get it!), being prank called was totally an affirmation.

I got off the phone, popped open Facebook, and my heart sank.  The status of a former student was about her friend, a fringe kid at my old group, who is now barely an adult and had just been arrested for shooting and killing someone.  It was heart breaking.  I hardly knew the teen, he had come to a handful of events with his friends that were more plugged in.  Immediately I was slammed with doubts – could I have done more?  Is there something I could have done that would have changed the course of his life?  Logically, I know there wasn’t – that I had done what I could, but that didn’t stop me from struggling with guilt and the ‘what ifs’.  I can’t begin to imagine what the future holds for him now.

There’s nothing easy about working with teens.  It’s not practice for becoming a ‘real pastor.’  But it’s definitely where God has wired my heart.

EDIT: I just saw an update in the news; he told the police he was joking around with his friend with the shotgun, he thought it wasn’t loaded when he pulled the trigger.  He’s being charged with manslaughter.

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