Our theme this year “The Life.” Today we explore that theme with….
The Life of the Youth Cheerleader
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.
I loved being a cheerleader in my middle school and in the beginning of my high school career. I went to small Christian schools growing up in the Richmond, Virginia area, and while it was not exactly the “cool” thing to do, I didn’t care. I loved encouraging our basketball teams in games, the individuals on the teams during the week, and even the other girls on the squad. I actually stopped cheering when we started going to cheer competitions. I thought I didn’t get to spend as much time encouraging others as I would have liked (though I fully supported their decision).
It probably doesn’t surprise you that in tenth grade in youth group, we took a spiritual gifts inventory, and I got “encouragement” as my main spiritual gift. It didn’t surprise me either. The problem was, I wasn’t sure how to make good use of it. That’s where my youth cheerleaders came in.
A few adult leaders at my church were great at seeing the gifts of students and actively finding ways that they could use those gifts now rather than only in the future. They would encourage us as we took on responsibilities or leadership in ministries. They spoke highly of us to other church members that may have had some doubts. Of course, they also cheered us on through our life experiences in middle and high school.
Seeing how I enjoyed encouraging other people, my Sunday School leader suggested to a middle school leader that I serve as a mentor to a middle school youth. Leaders asked me to work with kids at my church and to contact peers that weren’t regularly attending church and youth activities. I was asked to write Advent devotions for the church devotional. As I continued on to college, the leaders invited me to come back and serve as a small group leader for youth retreats. These same youth cheerleaders continue to cheer me on in ministry today.
Without the encouragement and work done by youth cheerleaders on my behalf in high school, I wouldn’t have the many encouragement opportunities already under my ministry belt. I rely on what I learned from those experiences now as Pastor for Youth and Children. I have the awesome opportunity to encourage not only my students but also fellow adults to discover and share their gifts to serve God and love others. I get to cheer on my church as they include youth in more of their ministries and help students further develop these gifts. I may not be decorating lockers or learning chants for the basketball game anymore, but I enjoy seeing my inner cheerleader still shine on behalf of those in my congregation and community.
Make sure to surround your ministry and yourself with cheerleaders. These adults (and students!) know how important it is to speak encouragement into the lives of others, especially youth. The cheerleaders may not always be active leaders in youth ministry, but they will encourage your youth and your ministry. They will spread the news to other members of the congregation that may need to hear it. Go get (or thank) your cheerleaders. You can do it!