This year’s theme is “The Life.” Today we explore that theme with….
The Life of the Trusted Youth
Ginny Richardson serves as the Pastor for Youth and Children at Vienna Baptist Church in Vienna, Virginia (about 20 miles outside DC). She is a Richmond, Virginia native and a graduate of Christopher Newport University and McAfee School of Theology. Ginny enjoys learning with the students she ministers and seeing them embrace their gifts and passions to serve God and love others. Her hobbies include exploring new places and museums, hanging out with friends and family, watching college sports, and spending time outdoors.
During my senior year of high school, my youth minister asked me to help coordinate our youth group’s Angel Tree project. Each Christmas, we would get the names of kids who had a parent in prison as well as their Christmas wish lists that were written on paper angel ornaments. Youth and their families would pick out an angel and go fulfill that kid’s wishes on behalf of that parent. We would then personally deliver the gifts as a youth group one day during our winter break. I have fond memories of these bus rides and seeing the joy on these kids’ faces as they received gifts from their parent they couldn’t see every day.
In my role, I had to organize the information we had for the different families to whom we would deliver gifts. I had to make calls to confirm gift drop-off information with them. I was honored to have this responsibility, though it did push me out of my comfort zone. I was a shy youth who didn’t like speaking to people I didn’t know, but I knew this responsibility was important.
Serving as a coordinator also helped my youth minister in a very busy season in ministry. He needed the extra help, and I needed a challenge. I realize now I also needed the encouragement that I could be trusted with such responsibilities. He took a chance on me, and my first thought was “Why me?”. He believed in this high school senior who was now in control of one of his responsibilities.
My youth minister realized my calling to ministry before I did. Even if ministry wasn’t the field I would have found myself in, my youth minister reaffirmed in me that I had gifts and I could use them to make a difference in the world. He kept me engaged in ministry during my busy senior year and kept me open to possibilities and challenges. He kept me pushing myself out of my comfort zone. He kept me open to listening to God’s calling in my life.
While I am still working on being as trusting with my youth as my youth minister was with me, I cannot tell you how life-giving responsibilities can be to our youth. By noticing their gifts and passions and trusting in them, the student’s value is affirmed. We know this is important in today’s society, when a youth’s value is constantly being torn down. In my experience, more often than not, students who others thought would not keep up with these responsibilities fulfilled them and wonderfully so. Trusting in youth with responsibilities has also helped youth who are on the outskirts of youth ministry still be involved in the life of the church family.
Try it with your youth. Try it even with the kids at your church. It’s risky, but it can be totally worth it. Believe in your youth and their gifts. Give them opportunities to share those gifts with your congregation. Help others be open to trusting the youth. Your church will be more like the full body of Christ it is created to be with their leadership and gifts added. And as a youth minister or ministry leader, it is your responsibility to make sure they know you value and trust them.