I was a senior in high school, and it was 8 AM on a Saturday morning. My youth leaders had invited me to come along with them to attend a seminar on youth ministry, and even though Saturday mornings were valuable sleeping hours for a high school senior, I agreed to go with them. I felt out of place, and I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there. It was a small group of people but everyone else there were adults, then there I was a small, confused, and very sleepy teenager. The speaker was Keegan Lenker, and he was talking about a book called Sticky Faith. I can’t remember a single lesson Keegan taught that day, but looking back I’ve come to realize that a seed was planted.
Fast forward six years… I’ve graduated college, I’ve traveled the world, and I would maybe consider myself an adult. I’m currently a preschool teacher, I have my Bachelors in Child and Adolescent Development, and sleeping in on Saturday mornings looks more like waking up at 7 AM than waking up at noon. I’m a semester away from graduating with my Masters in Youth, Children, and Family Ministry, and the last book I have to read for this term is Sticky Faith.
As I opened to read the first page of the book I cried… I put the book down, stared at it, and realized that for the past six years God has been cultivating a passion for youth ministry in my heart while I least expected it.
I still feel out of place, and I still feel like I’m not supposed to be here. There are people much more outgoing and more personable and even kinder than I am. There are people who can speak in front of crowds without getting a lump in their throat the way I do. Yet that still small voice that whispers in my head and tugs on my heart comes around every now and then and reminds me that one day I’ll be the pastor that God wants me to be.
My friend’s dad once asked me why I’m getting my Masters in Ministry. I’ll admit that I was pretty stumped. The quick and easy answer I give most people is that I’m interested in ministry, so I wanted to continue learning about ministry. But my uncle wasn’t looking for the quick and easy answer… He was waiting for the real answer.
And the real answer is this… I see the world teenagers are growing up in today. Adolescence is no longer a four-year time span from the age of 14 to 18. In this day and age, adolescence spans from the age of 12 to 22. We’ve gone from four years to nearly a decade. For an entire decade, individuals are trying to understand who they are, what purpose do they have, and what role they play in society. And for most of those individuals, that transition is not easy. I see the way society tries to influence them and tell them how to be, how to look like, what to own, how to talk, what grades to have, what sports to do, what colleges to go to, and so on and so forth. And having gone through that identity crisis, I know now that no opinion or influence matters nearly as much as standing firmly in the knowledge that I am created by a loving God who knows me far better than I’ll ever know myself. That’s why I want to tell young people that there is no path quite as rewarding or fulfilling or fun or adventurous or exciting or good as the path God has for them, but I know it doesn’t work that way. No matter what I say, they have to experience it for themselves. I want young people to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel called adolescence, and if that means walking with them until they reach the end then I will be right there with them.
That’s what my ministry looks like right now. I don’t have an office or a title or even a position at a church. All I have is my phone to answer calls late at night when Lynn is afraid racoons will attack her on her way to her dorm and a car to drive teenagers to and from the beach. Maybe one day I’ll have an office and a title and position at a church, but today I have a heart that longs to see young people seek out their identity in Christ rather than in the world. And though I often forget that God has laid that calling upon my life, He doesn’t hesitate to remind me through small signs like the book Sticky Faith.