It was midnight. Little sleep. College life. A long distance relationship. Uncertainity.
I awoke, really, with a realization. A small little voice. A leaning, really, to change my eventual career choice to ministry.
It felt natural. It really did. Almost like, if I had not listened to that voice, I would have spent a few years running from, and searching for, that home-sweet-home feeling.
A change in my undergraduate major meant the addition of an extra semester at a university that was a little pricey. Just a minor bump in the road. Minor. And my wife, not once, ever doubted that the voice I heard was the voice for her and the family we would eventually be given.
Within that year, I was again called, this time on the phone, to come preach at a small church not an hour’s drive away. A weekend job turned into my first job after college. My wife and I moved to the small town, into the parsonage, and began what, to this day, was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. That a church filled with old souls would listen to the words and teaching of a twenty-something is still tough to grasp, and only explained as though God gave them a generous amount of patience.
The next call was a printed publication, an advertisement from a church with the need of a youth minister. From the very first conversation, my wife and I both knew we would be moving. God was working and leaning again, and his voice spoke through the five members of a search committee. We moved, and I began a journey that is still quite the ride.
I received some papers this week, a list of some early lessons I wrote for our leaders of our student small groups. They were deep, and naive, and green. But God seemingly blessed those words, those thoughts. And though those words were written for different leaders and different students, I attend the continued evolution of those groups now, on Wednesday nights, and though I take no credit at all for what I see, the exprience is beyond words. Lots of students. Lots of energy. Lots of passionate leaders with a great ability to take the words in the lessons I now write and maneuver them, mold them, into a discussion that is always just right for the students they are teaching.
I go to my office during the week, and marvel at times that I have not lost any passion for student ministry. I’ve been given the slightest of gifts that have kept me one step ahead of the cultural pace that feeds on the energy of teenagers. God has guided my hands, my eyes, my thoughts, to find and seek ideas for programs, material for our curriculum, and the technological learning to accomodate the eyes and the time of a teenager. I feel as though I am the one that has learned the most, and the journey I take with God is still one of humility. I do not know what I am doing, even to this day, but expect God to direct where we can and want to be.
He gave me access, early in my years here, to teach at the private school associated with our church. He used those years, those rough and tough years, to teach me more things, newer things, about the broader base of student ministries. He now allows me to teach at the local college, where my classes are always filled with high school students taking collegiate courses. Teaching on the collegiate level has given me vision into the emerging and future world of the students involved in our ministry, and has also introduced me to the most current and successful teaching models for a classroom filled with teenagers and older adults in varying demographics. It has also allowed me to be a current voice in the wider environment in our neighboring cities. I am known as their teacher at college, and the youth minister at the church where their friends attend. The doors that have opened for me in those classroom experiences are invaluable.
All of this is amazing to me. All of it. I am at a unique point (probably because of a two week break) where reflection is the order of the day. And I am thankful to look back, after almost ten years in student ministry, and see the guiding, and most certainly, the providential hand of God.
I had a thought, when I was a teenager, involved in the youth ministry of my church, that one day, maybe, I would be given the opportunity to lead and teach students. Those thoughts still haunt my mind, for they were thoughts born of a certain teenage selfishness that plagues all of us during those years. I ran from those thoughts early into college, with ideas of making my career in other things. But God called. And I had no choice but to listen. My ministry path would lead from preaching, where I thought God may have obviously gifted me, to a ministry that needed the use of other gifts, ones I believed I did not have, and have spent the better part of the past decade learning.
I am truly grateful for this path. I realize the gifts I have are only for the moment I need them. And there are times, like now, that I believe I could do this for the rest of my life. I make mistakes, for everyone on a learning path is bound to stumble, but God has given me a church, again, with an abundance of patience. They allow me and trust me with what I believe to be the most pressing ministry in any church. It is a thing of God. It truly is.
Student ministry is my calling. My passion. Moments teaching students, messaging students, meeting students, seeing students, are moments that are given by God. And how thankful I am that He is most patient. He is still, even after all these years, still working on me, preparing me for the next day, the next moment, and the next season, giving me what I need, when I need it. It is truly, truly, a calling.