Our theme for 2019 is “The Body.” Today we are exploring that theme with the blog…..
The Body I Use to Have
Originally from Chapel Hill, NC, Daniel Potter serves as the Minister of Youth at First Baptist Church in Columbus, GA. He earned his M. Div from the Wake Forest University School of Divinity and a BS in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When not doing youth ministry, Daniel enjoys good music, laughter, spending time with his wife Rachel, cheering on his beloved Tar Heels. He also serves as the Podcast Director for YMC.
I remember it pretty vividly. I woke up the morning after a long basketball session in graduate school stiff as a board. It didn’t make sense to me, really. I was only a few years removed from my undergraduate days of playing for multiple hours several times a week. And yet, the stark realization hit me: I no longer owned the body I used to have. Don’t get me wrong, at 28 years old, I don’t feel like I’ve aged a whole lot. Working with youth helps keep me mentally young and spry – although I’m not nearly as cool as I used to be. The biggest difference I’ve noticed, having completed my transition from college to grad school and now to full time youth ministry, is that my body just feels different. Perhaps, the cause was years of playing catcher, wrestling in high school, or a family history of knee problems if you will. Whatever the case, I’m in a new stage of life and feel certain others are coming to similar realizations.
Often, we talk about the church in terms of the body. Each person has a particular role and all are essential to the whole. It’s a beautiful image for youth ministry when you consider those who are more intelligent, or more athletic, or more humorous, or more caring in a youth group. We carry that similar message to our churches, sometimes, when we clamor to have our youth more involved in church leadership. Rarely, though, do we address the inevitable and difficult reality that our role in the body changes as age. And, we often fail our older youth and college students by not preparing them well for the impending transition.
I think, at times, we miss a valuable opportunity to incorporate more about development in how we teach our youth. Sure, it can be uncomfortable to talk about hormones, sexuality, and personal health with our young people. The topic remains important. Consider how it might help our youth, who struggle with their own varying identities, to look at how our bodies change as we age and how our role in the larger church body does, too. We create space for youth to realize that they aren’t a finished product when they cross the stage some May or June. They haven’t arrived until their bodies quit changing – and they’ll never quit changing! Focusing on the process of development opens conversations around the continual process of following Christ throughout life’s ebbs and flows. And, these notions might even help our youth make better choices at that random gas station stop on the way home from the retreat when they want to buy pixie sticks and red bull. But, probably not.
We’ve got a youth volunteer we call Blue – and yes, that’s an “Old School” reference, who is 74 years old and has been a faithful mentor in the youth program. He even leads trips down the Chattahoochee as a whitewater rafting guide. How I hope to have his energy, enthusiasm, and physical fitness when I reach his age! But, we’re not all called to be Blue. Maybe, then, the biggest development from opening dialogue around the physical body with our youth could be that we as youth ministers become more conscious of our own bodies. We realize the things we once could do, the things we still might be able to do, and most importantly the things we might need to let go. If we’re going to bring this topic up, we have to be willing to be vulnerable about the changes in our own bodies and willing to challenge ourselves to be the our most healthy version. I won’t try to prescribe what that looks like for you in your journey. But for me, it means a few more minutes stretching and dodging the Mountain Dew and/or Doritos at the lock-in.