Family, Friends, and Freaks
I’ve been involved in full time student ministry for over ten years. I have a lot more grey hairs then I used to have and maybe a few more wrinkles to show, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. God has put in me a passion that I can’t seem to shake. It’s a wonderful thing to love your “job” – especially when it’s also student ministry! When I am asked what has kept me motivated in a field where the lasting-power of youth workers is infamously not-so-good, I generally respond that I keep myself connected through three very important relationships: family, friends, and freaks. Allow me to expound.
I am a husband of thirteen years who is still madly in love, a father of four absolutely beautiful daughters, and a soon-to-be stay-at-home dad with another junior – yes, a boy — on the way this summer. Behind my relationship with God, nothing is as important in life as my family. I do everything I can to make them a priority over student ministry. The way I see it, I’m called to them first, before every other activity. I’m still passionate about student ministry, but I don’t let it take first place in my life.
My family is like a fountain. They fill me up, support, encourage me and give me strength to do the work that God has called me to do. Because of this, I am very protective of our family time. I don’t ever want to be too busy to love and be loved by them. They are my life-blood.
Here’s where I see some weak spots in the lasting power of student ministers in general. I keep on seeing youth workers who spend more time with the kids they are ministering to than they do with their families. I see schedules getting overwhelming because of an inability to say “no”. I see their homes becoming a place where they crash at night – too tired to spend any quality time with their wife or kids.
I’ve never been the kind of guy that’s the life of the party. It’s just not me. I’m more of the melancholy / phlegmatic personality type that thrives more on one-to-one relationships. For me, my friends, are my confidants. They know things about me that no one else does because I only share the deepest parts of me with them.
My friends challenge me. Recently, I asked a friend how he was doing on his book. He’s a gifted writer who is working to get his first project published. He responded by asking me about a passion of my own: “How are you doing on your album?” Music is a passion of mine, but one that has been pushed to the back burner lately and he knew this. As a result of our conversation we challenged each other to pursue our passions. When the time comes we will share our progress.
My friends speak prophetic words into my life when I need them the most. I remember another time when a friend told me to get my resume ready because he saw me “going places”. He was a mentor in life and ministry, and he tragically passed away shortly after. I took his word at face value and updated my papers. Within two months, my family was in transition and I was looking for a new job. Because I was ready, I was able to apply and interview at the church where I currently serve. The church was down to just a handful of candidates and we swept in at the last moment to begin some of what have been the greatest years of my life. Who else but a close friend could credibly speak a word like that into your life?
This is a term of affection for my peers – the youth workers in my life. Without my fellow youth workers and our youth worker network, I don’t know how long I could have made it in student ministry. There’s something very powerful about knowing that you are not alone. I’m not the only one who struggles with selfishness and pride. I’m not the only one who has bad weeks and sometimes feels like giving in or giving up. I’m not the only one who wrestles with the fear of man.
Sometimes, it’s the ones who are in the trenches with you that are able to offer up the greatest support. They know what it’s like. They’ve been where I’ve been and have probably seen what I’ve seen. They understand the ups and downs of student ministry like no one else. So when they offer up words of instruction or encouragement, it means something more.
Sometimes, all I need is a spark – something to light the flame inside of me anew. Sometimes, maybe it’s me that is able to offer up some encouragement or piece of advice. It’s an awfully great feeling to be able to support those you love and respect. On other occasions, I might just be an ear that is quick to listen and slow to speak.
Whatever it is, I know that there is something powerful in relationships. God wired us for them and I want to receive all that I can get from this life-giving blessing.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.