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 First Fruits
John H. Uldrick
Minister of Students and Missions
John has been on staff at FBC since 2007. A native of Clinton, South Carolina, John enjoys college football, playing golf, and riding bikes with his children. He has been married to his wife Jennifer since 1997 and they have two children: Charlie, born in 2000, and Annalise, born in 2002. He really enjoys his work with middle school, high school, and college students and sometimes can’t believe he gets paid for this!
Life Verse: Matthew 28:19-20
I have served churches and connected with youth in some form or fashion since 1995. Each church brought its own challenges and growth areas. Some of those challenges were a product of the fact that I was young and inexperienced. Most of those growth areas were met with patience and understanding by the congregations I was privileged to serve. All of those churches were and have been an invaluable learning lab for me and my vocational calling in ministry. My calling has shifted slightly over time, but one thing has stayed the same. In all those places, I have invested in relationships.
I have served churches in small towns and metropolitan cities. I have served alongside students who had both parents in the picture, students of divorce and students from broken homes. I have had students who graduated as valedictorian, students who work on wall street, students who still deal with addiction to drugs, and students who have done time in jail. I’ve seen a lot, although I’m not sure I’ve seen it all. The problem with relationships with youth is often times you don’t get to see the fruits of your labor right away.
One of my most trying seasons of ministry has become one of my favorites. I served a church in central Florida for 5 years that had a group of boys that tested every limit of my fortitude and strength. They were a large group. They were full of energy, always around, and many times found themselves on the edge of trouble. I spent time in front of Directors of Passport Camps with these boys because they were acting inappropriately in Bible Study. I have been almost arrested because these boys were hazing on a college campus we were staying on. Through it all, I never gave up on them. I kept in contact with them and always expected more from them.
Over the last 4 years I have been able to perform three weddings for these boys. I have seen them graduate from college and law school. I have seen them begin to have children and find callings in their careers. I don’t suppose that I am the reason why they’ve turned out so well. Those circumstances might even have occurred in spite of me. I do know, that it is both energizing and fulfilling to see those young men, whom God loves, begin to lead their families and in their churches in a way that makes me proud to know them.
Ministry surely is a lifetime calling. I can still remember some of the best advice given to me as a young seminarian: “If you can do anything other than ministry and be happy, please do. Ministry will be a tough journey if it is not your lifetime calling.” A lifetime of relationships and a long journey in ministry has allowed me to see fruits come to bear. It has taken time, even decades. But as those youth become leaders in the church, I am even more fulfilled in my calling this day.