Never Say Never
The year was 2010. I had moved more than 400 miles away from home to attend seminary, and I vividly remember thinking, The only way I’ll ever end up back home is if the church I grew up in were to someday offer me a position. Fast-forward a couple of years to 2012, and I found myself back home, beginning my first full-time ministry position as the high school pastor in the church I grew up in.
I was new to ministry, and there was much I didn’t know (I still find that to be the case, actually), but there was one thing I knew for certain: I was not a fan of middle schoolers. They were loud. They were messy. They were awkward. In a word, they were immature.
The way our weekly programming worked at the time, the middle school students would spend the first portion of our midweek gathering mixed in with the high school students. And I hated it. I tried to think of every way possible to separate the two groups, because I wanted nothing to do with middle school ministry. I will never do middle school ministry! I thought on multiple occasions.
Then it happened.
Through a series of events way too long to incorporate into this post, I found myself at the helm of the middle school ministry.
And I hated it.
I recall sitting in a room full of middle school students one Sunday night, watching them decorate the room for Christmas. They were insanely loud. They were ridiculously messy. They were unbelievably immature. “There’s no way I can do this,” I said to my wife.
Yet, somehow, I stuck it out. I don’t really know if it was me being too stubborn or too scared to leave. Maybe it was both. Whatever it was, I persevered—and in some way I still don’t completely understand, middle school students started growing on me. I became keenly aware that God still performs miracles, because I actually started to like middle schoolers.
Fast-forward to present-day, and I’m absolutely in love with middle school ministry. I’ve never felt as passionate about a group of people as I do middle school students. I’ve even intentionally handed off responsibilities in other areas of ministry so I could spend more time with our middle schoolers.
They’re still insanely loud—but I’ve learned it’s energy to be leveraged rather than noise to be avoided.
They’re still ridiculously messy—but I’ve learned to embrace the mess.
They’re still all kinds of awkward—but I’ve learned that awkward is actually pretty awesome.
They’re still unbelievably immature—but I’ve learned that their immaturity makes them incredibly teachable and moldable, much more so than crusty ol’ high schoolers.
All this to say one thing: never say never. Don’t close the door to a room you’ve never entered. Don’t take something off of the table that God clearly hasn’t. That thing you’ve sworn you’ll never do may very well be the thing that God uses to ignite a passion deep within your soul that you didn’t even know existed—after all, he does have a tendency to flip things upside down like that.
Jonas Larkin is the middle school student pastor at Oak Hill Baptist Church in Somerset, KY. He enjoys his family, good books, coffee in the morning, and all things Kentucky Wildcats. You can find him online at jonaslarkin.com or follow him on Twitter and Instagram @jonaslarkin.
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.