This year’s theme is “The Story/The Stories.” Each week our blog will focus on a story from a youth minister. We hope these stories help inspire you in the great work you are doing, as well as let you know you aren’t alone in the crazy, sweet, often hard to fathom world of youth ministry. This week we are hearing……
The Story of My Gold-Medal Summer
Rev. Brittany Stillwell Krebs came to serve First Baptist Church of Memphis as Minister of Music and Youth in November, 2014. A native of Danville, Kentucky, Brittany has a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and a Master of Divinity degree from The Baptist Seminary of Kentucky in Georgetown, Kentucky.
Brittany comes to First Baptist after serving for three years at Buechel Park Baptist Church as Minister of Music where she was ordained to the Gospel Ministry in 2013. Brittany describes her call to ministry as a journey. “My initial summons to ministry cannot be described in one event or miraculous conversion. There is a clear summons embedded deep within my heart. For as long as I can remember, I have been aware of God stirring in my life, pulling me toward something; a desire to discover the Divine. The question has never been will I answer the call, but how?”
Her role as music and youth minister allows her to answer the call in a unique way that resonates with her passion for meaningful worship, her love for music, and her desire to see youth reach their fullest potential as citizens of God’s Kingdom. Brittany met her husband, Kyle, in college. Her favorite pastimes include reading, watching Cincinnati Reds baseball, playing with her cat Larkin, and cooking.
I love the Olympics! People from all over the world come together to utilize their gifts and abilities, and while medals are fun, often times my favorite moments in the Olympics have less to do with competition and winning and more to do with learning the athlete’s stories, rooting for them to do their best, and being so proud when they reach their goals (medals or not). So of course I was pumped all last summer knowing that the 2016 Summer Olympics were almost here! And it’s only natural that this past summer I tried to capture some of that Olympic Spirit with our youth.
Sunday Night Bible studies were themed, “Passing the Torch.” We studied familiar stories of faith from the Old Testament that we heard as kids and considered what they mean to us now. We examined these heroes of the faith and found that we had a lot in common and a lot to learn from them. We also had a healthy dose of competition… earning points for attendance, weekly Bible readings & responses, winning games, and more. We ended our summer activities with the Closing Ceremonies where medals were awarded and silly games were played.
But, while medals are fun, my favorite moments of our Olympic summer had less to do with competition and winning and more to do with learning more about our youth’s stories, rooting for them to do their best, and being so proud when they reached their goals (medals or not). This has truly been a Gold Medal summer and I must confess I am mourned its end.
Over the summer I was given the gift of quality, consistent time with our youth. Because school was out and most extra-curricular activities were put on hold in the summer (and even my church schedule is less demanding) we were all less stressed and less busy. There was way less pressure consuming our lives and we were able to be the best versions of ourselves. We gathered together three times a week, totaling approximately 56 hours this summer (not counting 5 straight days at camp)! We spent Sunday nights together in Bible Study, worship, and prayer, we shared meals together, and played games. We gathered for Sunday School and worship each Sunday morning and even visited church members at a nursing home. We had a standing date almost every Tuesday night with one goal: fun and fellowship; a goal accomplished by seeing movies, playing games, eating food, and goofing off.
This gift of quality, consistent time was also possible because we had a youth intern. Having Reid on staff this summer allowed me to do more with the youth than I can normally do on my own. He assisted with planning, shared some of my workload, and his presence meant that we had two consistent leaders. I didn’t have to spend tons of time recruiting volunteers to reach the required minimum for our child protection policy and Reid was a constant second presence that not only made events possible and easier to plan but allowed for growth that comes when a group has consistent leaders. But most importantly, Reid was a positive, thoughtful, fun presence who challenged us all to be better.
Our group has grown in some very significant ways and these became evident this summer. This summer I was able to see the difference a year together makes. Last year we were quick to bicker and fight and were still learning what it means to be in community. This year I could see meaningful relationships take root as we interacted together. Our conversations have gotten deeper, youth have begun asking questions of each other and taking an interest in each other’s lives, we include more people in our conversations and fun, and we cheer for each other and support each other. Camp was a critical week for us, bringing to fruition many of the seeds that have been planted over the last year.
But summer doesn’t last forever. Our Closing Ceremonies were quickly followed by first days of school and the resuming of sports, homework, and after-school activities. We got busy again and it became much harder to get us all together at the same time. Our time together is limited, surrounded by deadlines, and in competition with the many other good things we do. I am sad the summer is over, but life gets its fullness from the changing of seasons, and each season is full of possibility and promise. But as the summer faded and bedtimes got earlier and to-do lists got longer and longer, there was one significant truth that has stayed with me. Consistent, repeated time together matters. Deep bonds are formed, relationships blossom and flourish, attitudes are transformed, whole cultures are shifted when we spend intentional time in community. How you spend your time and who you spend it with matters deeply to your own individual growth, to the growth of our family of faith, and to the growth of God’s kingdom. 56 hours in two months may not be possible all year but there are many opportunities to spend time in community, if only we will make room for them. Perhaps our best moments ahead have less to do with crossing things off a list and being productive and more to do with learning each other’s stories, rooting for each other to do our best, and being so proud when we reach our goals.