Every week this year we are exploring blogs related to our theme “The People.” Today we jump in with….
The People you least expected to be leaders
Rev. Sarah Boberg is the Minister of Youth and Children at First Baptist Church in Red Springs where she serves with husband and Pastor, Rev. Bradley Boberg. She is the mother of a 3 year old daughter, Scarlet, who is red-headed and full of personality! Sarah is a graduate of Campbell University with a B.A. in Religion and Christian Ministries and a graduate of Campbell University Divinity School with a M.Div. She is currently working on her Ph.D in Educational Studies at UNCG. She is working hard to complete her dissertation focused on the call experiences of Baptist women in ministry. In her free time – let’s get real as a minister, preacher’s wife, mother, and student she has very little of that – but she does enjoy reading, writing, and dancing when she gets a chance!
When I first began my first youth ministry position a Youth Council of adult leaders had already been appointed. These leaders were mostly parents of youth. They were a wonderful bunch. They worked hard and loved our youth. As the years past, the Youth Council has changed a bit. As of now, my Youth Council includes very few parents and lots of adults who love the youth and pour into the lives of our youth. Two of these adults are people who many of us never expected to be youth leaders, but have become almost irreplaceable.
D.A. Ratley is a 72 year old widower with two grown children and four grandchildren. He and his wife Carolyn were youth leaders over 20 years ago when both their children were youth. Carolyn passed away suddenly a few years ago. She was a wonderful servant of God. Our church, and obviously her family, grieved her loss horribly. After her death her husband, DA, started hanging around the church even more. Soon he began to show up almost every day. Because of his presence and his ability to accomplish almost any task, I started to ask him to do some things for me to help with the youth ministry. Soon, he was asked to serve on the Youth Council. He agreed, and the rest is history. At over 70 years old, he goes on retreats with us, does all kinds of behind the scenes tasks, and has cultivated some great relationships with the youth. And let me not forget, he makes great sweet tea and a mean chocolate éclair – two of our youth group favorites.
Then there is Kenny Sherrill. Kenny is just under 60 years old. He is divorced and has three grown children. He lives with and takes care of his mother. Kenny has led what he would call “a colorful life”. He has struggled with addiction and bad relationships. If friends from his younger days knew he was a youth leader and Deacon, they would not believe it. A few years ago Kenny started growing closer to God in deep and fruitful ways. He began serving in the church and participating in missions. He began to open up about how God had been faithful even when he was faithless. So one day someone suggested he serve on the Youth Council. He agreed, and once again the rest is history. He goes on retreats with us, teaches Sunday school, does many behind the scenes tasks, and even plays games with us (some he regrets the next day)! Kenny has also cultivated relationships with our youth, because of his openness about his past mistakes, his willingness to grow closer to God, and his want to serve God.
These two men are not the typical youth leaders. They are not middle-aged with children in the youth group. They do not have facebook, twitter, Instagram, or snapchat accounts. (However, they have learned to text!) They may not be the typical youth leaders, but they are extraordinary youth leaders.
They go above and beyond the call of volunteer youth leaders. They are retired and therefore do not work a typical 40 hour work schedule. This allows more time for them to invest in the lives of the youth and our youth ministry. These two men both have a genuine heart for God and for young people. Even though they sometimes feel unequipped and may not know exactly what to say or what to do, they have learned the power of presence.
Just recently some of our youth invited many of the youth leaders to their cheer competition. My heart wanted to burst when I saw D.A. and Kenny walk into the gym. Years ago they would have never imagined they would be at a high school cheerleading competition, but because two of our girls had invited them, they went. They cheered and screamed along with the rest of the crowd. That was a special night. I looked around at noticed almost all of my youth leaders where there. Why? Because they were invited and because they care. There were almost 30 people from our church there to support two of our youth. It was amazing. And snuggled into the cramped high bleachers where D.A. and Kenny, the faithful two.
I share the story of these two men for two reasons. First, youth leaders, never overlook a possible leader because of age. Even if someone can’t go down the ski slopes alongside your youth, that doesn’t mean they can’t be a good leader. D.A. and Kenny may not be able to ski down the slopes, but they would be at the bottom waiting with hot chocolate, an encouraging word and willingness to tote the skis of an exhausted youth. Second, church people, never think you cannot serve God because of your age. God can use you in mighty and unexpected ways if you are willing.
People are a vital part of ministry. Good adult leaders are vital for an effective youth ministry. I am thankful to have worked with some amazing youth volunteers in my tenure as a youth pastor, even the ones I least expected.