Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Safe Friend

I was reading a blog the other day and the blogger mentioned having a safe friend. A safe friend, per her definition, is one that you can whine, complain, moan, cry to...basically someone that you can dump your stress on and they will hear you out. I would concur that this is extremely important...not only to your own mental, emotional, and physical health...but also for the health & well being of those around you.

Trust need to be able to check a little anger before unleashing it on some poor, unsuspecting soul.

My safe friend would have to be my bestest, Ashley.

I have no idea when this picture was taken...I think it was after I graduated high school - either in the summer or during my Freshman year of college. I have known Ashley since she was 13 & I was 14. I know I actually have known her longer because there's a picture floating out there of a church event and she's in the background of my sister...but my first memories are from our teenage years.

Our teens at church think its crazy that we've been friends this long. I would have to say that this is probably a rare thing...

Anyway, Ashley is the one I call when I'm having a bad day...when I need to check a response that may not come across quite like it's intended...when I want to know why the skinny little boys with no shirts on are running around Walkertown...when I need someone to vent to, to cry to, to complain to. She understands when I say "my child is about to make me him"...and she talks me down from actually harming him.

She's the one who (finally) gave me a Magic 8 ball to sit on my desk at work...because I wanted to use it to answer the ninety-eleven stupid questions that I get asked at work.

We've cried together, laughed together, done stupid crafts together, worshiped together, ministered together, and fought together.

At the end of the day...I know that if I need to unload 24 hours worth of crap on her, she's there.

And the road goes both ways.

Of course, sometimes she betrays me...and joins in with our youth to photobomb my phone...

I can't say I wouldn't do the same to her. ;)

At any rate, if you don't have a "safe friend" need one. You need one so that you don't unload on every unsuspecting person who has the decency to ask you "how you are doing". You need one to keep you sane.
Proverbs 12:25-26: "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad. The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray."
Of course, be careful who you choose as your "safe friend" must be someone that won't just tell you what you need to hear. It must someone who can be a secret-keeper...or at least know when the secret should be told (for your safety or the safety of others).

Choose wisely my friend...choose wisely.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Why I Do Youth Ministry - Part Two

So, yesterday I gave you some of my "not reasons I do Youth Ministry"…and promised today I'd share WHY I do Youth ministry.

Let me tell you…Youth Ministry (and really any kind of ministry) is not for the faint of heart. If you think you can just show up, you are so totally wrong.

Because teens are difficult people. They are trying to balance being young with growing up, add in a HUMONGOUS dose of hormones making them slightly crazy…well, you just have a recipe for disaster.

But in spite of this, I love working in our Youth Ministry. Because…

#1 - I really enjoy being around teens. Some days are better than others…but I think that's true about all of us. Teens are fun loving people and I'm a fun loving person. Teens love teen-y shows, movies, and books…and my 38 year old tastes are not far off from the tastes of a typical teenager in that respect. There is nothing that can make you feel younger…and then older all at the same time…than hanging out with a bunch of teenagers.

#2 - This is the important one…I just feel this need to love on them. Our teenagers have so many negative things pouring over them that they need to go somewhere to feel some kind of positive love energy. Unfortunately, church is not always where they can find that. And I'll be the first to admit that some of our teens are harder to love than others. Some of that is a clash in our personalities. Some of that is my frustration in seeing our kids not living up to their full potential. Sometimes it's just that I'm not lovable for a moment…and that makes it hard for me to pour out what I'm not feeling. BUT, I think it's so important for teenagers to feel love from someone. They've got to have it…and unfortunately they aren't always getting that at home.

#3 - Many of our kids need people who will not only love them, but actually hear what they say. I can be honest - I don't always "hear" what my kid says. Because he is mine and my agenda in raising him is to raise him to be a responsible adult. And there are days that I don't want to hear his opinion, his reasoning, or just his general words. But someone, somewhere needs to hear those words. And I know that he has places to get those out. More than that, our kids need people who can give them wise counsel…and I don't know about you, but I never saw my parents as "wise" people (that has changed by the way…but at 16, 17, etc. they were not wise in my eyes). All kids are like that, though…they don't think their parents know jack-diddly-squat…but someone who is not "raising" them? Those people have all the knowledge. I want to give them a good Godly place to receive that wise counsel...because if they can't get it from me, they'll try to find it elsewhere. And there is no guarantee that what they will hear is truly Godly...or even good.

#4 - I am constantly brokenhearted for our teens. When our teens mess up, this weighs heavily on me. I take responsibility. I want to make sure that whatever has happened doesn't happen again. I want them to see that I truly understand what it means to make stupid, teenage mistakes that have important, adult consequences. I want to grieve with them…I want to weep with them…I want to get angry with them…and I want to heal with them. I pray for them often…sometimes collectively…sometimes individually. I just want to see them be the best part of who they are. I want to do whatever I can to encourage them in this…to encourage them to use their talents…to see that they become the best version of their self.

#5 - Not only do I want to love on them, I want to pour the love of Jesus on them. I want them to understand and know what real-time grace & mercy feel like. I want them to understand that so well that they have no other choice than to pour that out on others around them. I want them to SHINE with the love of Jesus in this very dark world. There's no way I can effectively explain God's love…I don't think I really & truly understood exactly what God did for us until I had my own child. And I know that I could never do for anyone else what God did for me. The best way for me to try to make our teens understand this is by loving them with this amazing kind of love.

I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not trying to say that I am. I've made mistakes…I've messed up…and here's the truth - I'll probably do it again.

At the end of the day, though, if I'm not willing to love our students, then I might as well not even bother showing up.

And THAT, my friends, is why I DO youth ministry. It's not for me…it's only for God's glory…to bring honor to Him. And for this time, He has given me this awesome opportunity to do all of the above. I can't imagine a more important and more fun ministry to be a part of.

Other than children's ministry…and He lets me do that as well.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why I Do Youth Ministry - Part One

Recently (and by recently I mean within the last 3 months) one of our students asked me "why I hang around with children all the time". At first, I thought she was referencing my work in the Clubhouse with what I actually consider as "children"; however, she was really referring to herself and her peers. I can't remember the answer I gave her at the time…and honestly I think she was really joking around with me…but the question has been on my mind ever since she asked it.

Because really & truly, if my motives are not true…then I shouldn't even bother.


And that's what I've been considering since she asked…WHY do I do youth ministry?

So…I'm going to attempt to tell you why I do youth ministry and why I think it's important.

BUT FIRST…I would be doing a disservice if I didn't consider some of the more popular reasons that other people think that I (and my fellow youth leaders) do youth ministry.

#1 - To go on lavish, all-expense paid trips.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! While part of that is somewhat true…I do go on trips and the cost for me to go on said trip is usually covered (after I have worked alongside our teenagers at every car wash, meal, fund raiser, etc.)…there is nothing lavish about spending any more than 20 minutes in a 15-passenger van with teenagers. The smells alone will keep one from even imagining for a moment that you are going to some tropical paradise.

And lavish?  I spent one youth trip sleeping on a very uncomfortable couch every night. The most lavish part of that trip was that we had a pool at the house we were staying in. A pool that I never got into. Now…when we take a youth trip to Hawaii or a cruise to the Bahamas?  Maybe we can give lavish a little credo.

Also…I don't consider a trip where I maybe get 10 hours of sleep over a 5 day period lavish. Nor do I consider a trip where I have to keep up with 20+ teenagers lavish. I have a hard enough time keeping up with one.

#2 - Because you are still young & fun.

Yeah…no. I have an 18 year old son that will tell you all the ways that I am neither young nor fun.  Just ask him.

#3 - Because you have nothing else to do.

Honestly, I love having nothing to do. My favorite thing is to discover that I have nowhere to be and nothing that must be done. And when I find myself with this rare treat, I don't call up 20 of my favorite teenagers and plan a trip.

I lay in bed, drink coffee, read a book, and/or watch TV.

THAT's what I do when I have nothing else to do.

So…why do I actually do youth ministry?  I'll tell you tomorrow.