After church on Sunday Mark and I headed out to youth camp in Spokane. What an experience! I find it difficult to even describe the emotions of the last 24 hours. First of all, you have to understand that it has always been our desire to love and invest in every age person at our church. We want the kids of our church to know us and love us as their pastors, too. We work hard to show up enough so that our kids and teens think that our presence is normal. We youth pastored too many students who never even met the lead pastors at our church and come graduation, they felt out of place in the church. It is our hope and desire that each child and teen feels a part of our church as a whole, while also finding their place in their own age-appropriate ministries. It’s all about balance!
It is with that mentality, that our experience at youth camp was so rewarding. When we walked into pre-service prayer and watched our students calling out to God, that was awesome. And then to have them literally run over to us after prayer to say hello and thank you for coming…wow!
We also showed up on the night that our youth were hosting the service. That meant that they got to lead worship, opening games, etc. I watched as our students took the stage. Their heart was to lead people into worship and not to have it be about a performance. And that’s exactly what happened. I watched them with tears running down my face as I realized that probably none of them would have been doing this a year ago. They were far from God and needed a change. The last year as a part of our church, including the launch of our youth ministry, made all the difference in these student’s lives. It was yet another moment for me that made all of the sacrifices worth it.
We also got to hang out with them on Sunday and Monday. I wish you could have seen it. Everyone – from the youngest to the oldest, from the jocks to the comedians – was included. They have created an environment where everyone is loved. Period. You are safe, accepted for who you are, and you are a part.
They are good teenagers. They are funny, kind, passionate, focused, and loving. I’m proud of who they are! I’m also proud of Kris, Jeff, Angela, Chris and Gina for molding and shaping these students into all that God has for them. You are GREAT leaders.