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 last minute addition.
Clint is a native of Rockcastle County, a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University and Baptist Seminary of Kentucky. He was a Ministry Intern at the First Baptist Church in Richmond from 2010-2011, the Interim Youth Minister and Minister of Outreach and Education at the First Baptist Church of Winchester from 2011-2013, and the Youth Minister at the First Baptist Church in Carlisle from 2013-2015. Clint is also a self-employed Contractor who makes home repairs and improvements. His wife’s name is Hannah.
Summer camp can be perhaps the most rewarding and exhausting aspect of youth ministry. Someone once said it shaves years off your life, and I’m almost sure I believe that. Regardless, it is a week of unexpected and unforeseeable events. One of the most memorable for me would be the time that a young boy was added to our camp roster just days before we headed out.
This boy was barely a middle schooler, had not spent much time away from home, and was generally absent from church functions. That’s because he had a particularly troublesome home life that bordered on neglect. Officials had been involved several times to investigate his home, and he was embarrassed that the other students in the youth group knew about it. Nevertheless, when his dad called and asked if we could squeeze him in I moved heaven and earth to get him a spot.
Day 1 was typical. A lot of ice breaker games, trying to get the students comfortable with each other, finding extra pairs of socks and underwear for the students that forgot to pack any, rearranging the bed assignments because two students already can’t get along with each other, and so on.
Day 2, I began to see the change. This boy that always stood with his hands in his pockets and never spoke found a few friends he could talk to. He followed them around and they accepted him as one of their own.
Day 3, I saw a tear in the corner of his eye during worship. I resolved not to approach him just yet. I would wait and see if he would come to me or anyone else that he was growing closer to.
Day 4, the final full day of camp. Some of the students were ready to go home, but this boy and his friends could stay there all summer if they were allowed. That evening, in the final worship service, I watched them worshipping like I’d never seen before. They didn’t care who was there, they didn’t care about what was wrong with their lives or the world around them. They just worshipped God like they were made to do.
After the service we retreated to our group area for debriefing. As we had done every night I opened the floor for the students to share what insights they had gained from the day. There were the typical, “I had fun zip lining” statements. But I watched this boy struggle with the words he wanted to say. I thought he was going to pass up the chance to speak, but he finally raised his hand. The group went silent, waiting for his words. Before he spoke, tears started pouring down his face, but they weren’t tears of sadness or pain, he had a smile from ear to ear. When he worked the lump out of his throat he said these few words that I will never forget, “I knew that God loved us, but now I know that God loves me.”