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 the New Van Tragedy

John Uldrick

John has been on staff at FBC Rome, GA 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. E-mail:

Just be ready…

I served a great church while I was in seminary at McAfee School of Theology. They were patient, kind, generous, and had a smaller youth group. It was a great fit for me and my family. I started work in September, and I barely had time to plan one of the youth group’s most important trips. This church had a history of going skiing during a winter break, usually during MLK weekend, and so I hurriedly planned the trip so we could continue the tradition. As January rolled around and the final preparations were made, we were as ready as we could be for a great long weekend skiing and worshiping together.

We had a great group of youth join us on that trip. I was blessed and cursed with the makeup of that group. See, as great a group as it was, the pastor’s son and daughter were both included. So…the pressure was on. We struck out just as school ended in the church’s 15 passenger comfort bus with a few cars following. We were leaving the Northeast Atlanta area and had more than an eight hour drive ahead of us. We were headed towards Snowshoe, West Virginia, where the slopes were a little higher and the snow was sure to be better. It was most certainly going to be COLDER, and the youth were excited.

The trip up wasn’t bad at all! We made it safely through evening traffic and through the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. Snow began to fall as we got closer to our destination. When we finally arrived in Snowshoe about 2:30 a.m., we were more than ready to check into our rooms and get some brief sleep before our FULL day of skiing the next morning. Sleep would just have to wait, though.

The church bus was a comfortable ride. It was brand new and top of the line, and I’m not sure it even had 5,000 miles on it. When I went to open the rear door of the bus in the 15-degree weather to retrieve everyone’s luggage, I realized it was stuck. I tugged and tugged, but the door would not open. I used a little more force, and the handle broke off in my hand. I remained determined, though, to get that door open, especially since skiing could not become a reality without my success. After about thirty minutes of attempting to get the door opened (and listening to teenagers whine), I gave up. Luckily, the mountain’s work force was grooming the slopes and the barns were empty. Several mechanics noticed our plight, and they came to our rescue. They did the only thing they knew to do: they sawed the hinges off of the door. Yes, you read that right. They sawed the hinges off of the door of the BRAND NEW VAN to access the luggage.

I worried throughout the entire trip about whether I’d still have my job once I returned to Duluth with the bus. I had gone through everything in my head, and I was ready to defend my honor when I saw the pastor. The great thing was that the he was already aware, knew how nervous I was about the encounter, and was very understanding. He complimented how I handled the situation and was gracious to me and all the adults we had on the trip. Youth ministry has taught me lots of things in my 20+ years of ministry. The GREATEST lessons…be ready for anything and be grateful for gracious and supportive congregations to serve!