Posted tagged ‘youth minister’

The Students Who Mentor You

November 16, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      November 16, 2015

                                   

In recent weeks I’ve come to realize a few things about being the adult. Sometimes the younger ones we’re raising up, teaching, discipling, are teaching and mentoring you…the adult, the teacher, the pastor…perhaps more than you’re impacting them.

About a month ago, when I was in Chicago, I had dinner with a young lady who was in the youth group I directed more than thirty-five years ago. I still refer to Cyndi as a young lady even though she is now in her mid-fifties! When we met for dinner we had not seen each other for about ten years, but it was like we had seen each other the day before. A three hour conversation ensued. It was delightful to talk about the past, the present, and the future; to hear what God has done in her life and the lives of her family, to hear of a special mission project that her ninth grade son has initiated that has taken off.

And in the midst of it I realized that Cyndi, and her friends Laura, Sue, George, Wave, and others had raised me up as a youth minister. They showed grace to me when I was trying to figure out how to communicate scriptural truth to adolescents. They gave me the freedom to laugh at myself for my moments of cluelessness. They stood beside me in times of lacking confidence, and showed me that there are different ways of looking at a relationship with Jesus besides the Baptist mindset, the only view I had ever experienced.

And perhaps most amazing, and deeply moving, was to hear that Cyndi had become a follower of Christ at a Young Life Camp in Colorado I took a van load of students to the summer I was on staff at her church. For some reason I hadn’t been aware of that. And now 37 years later I was blessed to discover the rest of her story.

The students we mentor often becomes the students who mentor us.

Last week another of my former youth groups students, Deb Simpson Aldridge, went home to be with the Lord. She battled cancer, and cancer finally won, but her victory was assured even in the midst of death because of her faith in Christ. Deb was part of the first youth group I directed at First Baptist Church in Marseilles, Illinois. I had just graduated from Judson College in Elgin, Illinois, was going to start seminary that next fall, and was hired by the church to be the summer youth director. I had never had a youth position before…operated out of the experience of cluelessness! Deb and her sister Connie were two high school students in the youth group who accepted me right away. At my less-than-stellar bible study gatherings they would voice their thoughts and help me to keep going. There is nothing quite as disconcerting than to lead a group of students who sit there and look at you like you are speaking a foreign language. Deb would share something, or, in a loving sisterly way, tell Connie that what she just said was ridiculous.

Deb had a dry wit and humor that made our gatherings or road trips in the van experiences of laughter-laced fellowship. Anything I planned or suggested she would support. Think of it! A young guy right our of college with no experience could have been trampled to a ministry death by a youth group that saw him as an outsider to be neglected, but this youth group raised me up to proceed forward for a forty years of ministry. They could have killed me, but inside they mentored me.

Deb’s passing made me realize the effect she had on my life and my ministry.

Cyndi, Deb, Connie, Steve Landon, Shirl Streukens, Jon Daniels, the Epps Twins, Phil Girard, Jon Girard, Amy Anderson, Keri Anderson, John Chora, Brad Johnson, Tiffany Chora,Tony Lamouria…the list of student mentors for my life is long and deep.

A big part of how I see ministry…especially youth ministry…has been chiseled into my person by their hands.

And I am very, very blessed!

Getting Too Cozy With God

June 4, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      June 4, 2013

Working on the staff of Young Life when I was in seminary, and then also being the Youth Minister at a couple of churches, I was trained to “earn the right to be heard’ by the students I worked with. Youth ministry was, and still is, very relational. A young guy struggling with questions about faith needs to know that there is someone he can meet at Starbucks for a chai latte and conversational counseling.

I confess! In those days there was a need to look cool and be cool. It was a part of earning the right to converse about God. Now in my final year of the fifties “cool” is a term I only use to indicate the last of heat in the house. We have more blankets folded and ready on our couch than Bed, bath, and Beyond has in the entire store. “Overheated” for our household now refers to laying on top of the electric blanket.

It seems that the emphasis with most evangelicals, myself included, is on having a personal relationship with our heavenly father who has his son be crucified on the cross out of love for us.

There is nothing incorrect about that. It’s scripturally right on. John 3:16 makes that intimately clear. The struggle is that we so often make the mystery of the holy absent from our faith. We like to snuggle up with God, like a comforter blanket. God-cozy is more to our liking than divine mystery.

One of my friends recently said that the only place we see veils anymore is on Arab women to hide their faces, and on surgeons to protect them from our germs. Veils hide, and we are people who are used to the Freedom of Information Act. We are accustomed to full disclosure.

Scripture includes a number of verses that tell us about the mystery being revealed…and the mystery that is. Paul talked about “the mystery made known to me by revelation” (Ephesians 3:3) and “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.” (Colossians 1:26)

But he also talked about the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:4, Colossians 4:3)!

The contrast of the gospel is that we can now approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16), but the will not ever in this lifetime understand the ways of God. Revelation is partnered with mystery. The veil was torn away from the Holy of Holies, and yet are eyes do not fully see the moving of God.

And we shouldn’t! Mystery is what keeps drama in the story. If life was void of mystery our little ones would no longer ask the question “why?” Why questions lead them along the path of discovery.

Why do we have two ears and one nose?

I don’t know. Perhaps it has something to do with Mr. Potato Head. He would look weird with two noses and only one ear.

Why are some people scared of spiders?

Because they are…including me.

Why do women put make-up on, but men just put on deodorant?

Because men are in a hurry in the morning, and women…never mind, don’t tell Mommy I said anything about that!

Why does bacon taste so good?

Ahhhh….

The longer I walk with God the more comfortable I am with the Mystery. I also have a sense of peace knowing that I am always able to cry out to him, and he will embrace me. Perhaps that’s “cozy’, but I see it as evidence of the God who comes near.