MY FIRST STEPS INTO YOUTH MINISTRY…
It was 1980 something and I was taking my first steps into Youth Ministry. Like most, my first steps involved camp counseling. I felt prepared to provide devotionals, counsel, and overall care to my campers. However, nothing had prepared me for the scene I encountered as I walked into the hall of the Residence Hall.
Jacob, a smaller camper, was hanging by his hands from a door frame, taunting other campers to hit him in the stomach (the hit I saw was a legit, punch to the stomach, legit!). I immediately told the boys to break up, instructed Jacob to let go of the door frame, and let him know we needed to visit. To be clear, this was not a bullying incident or fight scenario. Jacob was intentionally inviting others to punch him in the gut so he could demonstrate his manliness (Okay, the young man’s belly button was bleeding because of repeated hits to the stomach). I may not had been the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I asked the obvious, “What are you doing? Why would you let others hit you like that?”
What followed was an intense conversation about self-worth, value, and toughness that did not need to be proven in hit-me-in-the-belly-while-hanging-on-the-door-frame fashion. We “clicked” in that conversation and have remained in intermittent contact over the last 30 years.
It is 2020 something and I was speaking at a local church. Like most, my first few steps into the message involved interaction with the audience. And…you guessed it…Jacob, now a parent of a teenager, was in the audience. After the message we hugged, caught up with family and friend’s news (yes, we recalled the bleeding belly button story) and then he said:
“David, thank you for the way you have dedicated your life to students, the study of students and continue to help us.”
Wow! That was a Why Moment for me. A conversation, off stage, away from the cameras, unposted to social media (I know, I am not including this blog in that category). A real, personal conversation that reached back to the beginning and reminded me of why I do what I do in Youth Ministry.
To be clear, I do not do what I do to receive praise. If that where the case, I would have quit a long time ago. Praise is appreciated (and typically associated with the stage, cameras, and posted social media), but a personal message of thankfulness is life giving (and typically given off stage, away from cameras, and unposted to social media).
That is another reason for why I do what I do. How about you? Please share a similar moment when you knew your work in youth ministry was validated.
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.