It is 2017 everyone! As we enter our fourth year of YMC we are continuing to have yearly themes. 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 Grace In Youth Ministry
Rev. Ben Brown is the Minister of Youth at First Baptist Church in Waynesboro, Va. Ben is a native of Virginia and has degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and BTSR. When not doing youth ministry, he loves hiking, running, playing the acoustic guitar, and eating Chick fil A. Ben is obsessed with VCU basketball and dreams of their return run to the Final Four.
I had just graduated from high school, and I was interning with my youth minister at my home church. I would come into the church office a couple days a week and work on ‘ministry things.’ I helped to organize youth volunteers for Vacation Bible School. I processed payments for summer camp. I folded all the extra t shirts in storage. I did all the things that I would make an intern do now.
My capstone project was to plan and implement a retreat for rising 7th graders in the youth group. It was no small task, and I eagerly planned activities and Bible study for the day trip. I reserved a spot at a campground, and I went shopping for all the things we’d need for the day. The cooler was packed, our games and materials were set, and all the students arrived at the church bus at the right time.
We were on our way when my worst fear became reality. I had packed the cooler, but I never put the cooler on the bus. What were we going to do? What would we eat?
I couldn’t blame anyone else… it was my fault, and I needed to tell my youth minister that I had failed. This was my greatest fear- failure.
The steps on the church bus were short but labored, and I faced my immediate supervisor to tell her of my error.
“Anna, I forgot the cooler. It has all our food in it. I’m so sorry.”
Her reply, “Thanks for letting me know. We’ll make it work.”
She clearly didn’t understand, and I explained to her again, “The cooler has all of the food in it, and I left it at the church. I really messed up. We have nothing to eat.” My tone essentially said, This is where you yell at me.
Again, “We’ll stop and get supper some place. Thanks for the heads up.”
You can tell a lot about someone’s by how they respond to grace. In the great musical, Les Miserables, grace is offered to be Jean Valjean and to Javert. Grace saves the life of Valjean, while grace is what destroys Javert.
“And so it must be
For so it is written
On the doorway to paradise
That those who falter and those who fall
Must pay the price!”
I lived in a binary reality. If mistakes are made, then the result is scolding or punishment or judgement, and I was surprised to find grace instead.
Grace found me when I needed it most, and I am reminded of how desperately I needed this example of grace. Life in a binary reality is a trap. Life without grace is like running in ice skates. Yeah, they’re shoes, but there’s no bounce or support or cushion. There’s a better way.
In ministry and leadership it’s easy to get caught in the trap of forced reaction. People will disappoint you, and they’ll forget important things. People will say things they regret and fall short of the expectations you have for them. We will fall short of the expectations of others.
How do we respond to grace?
Is grace a surprise, or do we cap off the amount of grace that we ‘deserve?’ Do we keep track of grace, or do we only offer grace to some and not others?
Grace helps us to rewrite our story. Grace soothes the soul and makes all things new.
 Les Miserables, Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel, Herbert Kretzmer, 1980.