a middle school memory
When I was in 7th grade, I was standing in a spot in our church hallway that I can still completely reconstruct in detail in my mind (even though that church has since moved, and the former building has been leveled — so I haven’t actually seen that spot in more than 20 years). It was just outside the church’s Fellowship Hall, a place where many of our youth activities and meetings took place. And it was right in front of the office of the youth pastor. This moment in time is burned into my memory for one very specific reason: it was the nexus of my calling to youth ministry. The youth pastor (who really didn’t know me very well, and was more connected to my older sisters), blew past me as he left his office. We probably exchanged a non-life-changing “hey” or something like that. But his next eight words changed my life. He looked at me and said, “Oestreicher, you’d make a good youth pastor someday.” And here’s the developmentally-appropriate reality of that moment: it wasn’t until my senior year of High School that I started to seriously consider going into youth ministry. But those prophetic little eight words burrowed somewhere in my brain and heart and soul… and germinated. I’m quite confident that youth worker had no idea what the impact of that passing comment would be. It’s likely he wouldn’t have remembered it 24 hours after he said it. But it did have an impact — a really big one. And it’s humbling and emotional for me to imagine, 33 or 34 years later, the other lives that youth worker impacted, through me. In case the moral isn’t completely obvious, let me put it concisely: you will often not see the truly amazing and long-term impact of ministry with middle schoolers while they’re in your group; but the impact can, nevertheless, be transformative for a lifetime.
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