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 the Accidents
Justin Sizemore graduated from Georgetown College, and McAfee School of Theology. He is married to Abby Sizemore. He works at Calvary Baptist in Lexington, KY as a Minister to Students.
When I think about youth ministry, I most often think of controlled mass chaos. Working with teenagers can be challenging and no matter the amount of planning or preparation you put into an event or an activity, something is bound to go haywire. As a youth minister, sometimes I feel that my job is to be steady hand in the midst of the all the chaos that surrounds youth ministry. I remember the first time I learned this lesson…a lesson on how to be steady in the midst of chaos, and its all thanks to one my best youth parents and volunteers, Fred.
While in seminary, I worked for a church just outside Atlanta, GA. During my two and half years there, I spent a small portion as the interim youth pastor. Filling in until a permanent replacement could be hired, I needed to rely heavily on parents and other volunteers. Enter Fred. Fred was an ordained minister and had a daughter in the youth group and most importantly, Fred said he would drive the bus for any youth event I needed him for! What a Godsend! During my time as interim we had 2 major events in which Fred drove for us; a trip to Gatlinburg and a Disciple Now Weekend.
The first time Fred taught me to remain calm in the midst of chaos was on our Winter Retreat to Gatlinburg. This was my first retreat with the students as their interim so I was a nervous wreck! One of the days we were in Gatlinburg, we had scheduled a trip to the indoor waterpark. When we arrived, Fred and I dropped off the students with the other chaperones and we went to park the vehicles. Low and behold as Fred was parking the bus, there was a small golf cart in the parking spot next to him. I stood in the parking lot, waving my arms and trying to get Fred’s attention, but he didn’t notice me at all…and Fred plowed the back of the bus into that golf cart. My first trip and my first call to the church to ask about insurance. Yikes!
I remember Fred being cool, calm, and collected while I was on the phone freaking out with the church administrator. We found some workers of the resort and they told us the cart had been through worse damage than that and to not worry about it. What a relief. Fred told me he would take care of anything that came up, but I remember that his calming presence, as annoying as it was in the moment, actually taught me to remain calm in high pressure situations.
The second time Fred taught me to remain calm involves another accident with the bus. Part of our Disciple Now weekend involved a trip to SkyZone for an afternoon of trampoline fun. As we were getting ready to leave, Fred and I went to pull the vehicles up to the front so we could load the students up and head back to church. I was in a van behind Fred and I watch, in horror, as Fred cuts the bus wide and takes off the back end of a brand new Jeep. There were no students in my vehicle at the time and that is probably a good thing, I may have been fired for the first words that came out of my mouth! I couldn’t believe what had just happened.
Again, Fred calmly got out of the vehicle, assessed the damages, and went to find the owner of the vehicle. Again, I was freaking out over another accident and could not think clearly on how to handle the situation. Fred taught me to remain calm and to be calm as we spoke with the owner of the vehicle. Thankfully, the owner was far more understanding than most others would have been, and after exchanging insurance information, we were on our way back to church.
Needless to say, Fred didn’t drive for me much after that, but I will always be thankful for the lessons he taught me. Fred passed away after a battle with cancer on Christmas Eve 2015. Little did I realize that those accidents would have such a huge impact on my life. Youth Ministry can be so chaotic and so fast-paced that we forget to stop, be calm, and make wise choices instead of just shooting from the hip. Fred taught me to be the calming force in the midst of chaos, and for that I will always be thankful for that golf cart and that parked car.