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 one that got away (or so I thought)
Clint is a native of Rockcastle County, a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University and Baptist Seminary of Kentucky. He was a Ministry Intern at the First Baptist Church in Richmond from 2010-2011, the Interim Youth Minister and Minister of Outreach and Education at the First Baptist Church of Winchester from 2011-2013, and the Youth Minister at the First Baptist Church in Carlisle from 2013-2015. In addition, Clint is a self-employed Contractor who makes home repairs and improvements. His wife’s name is Hannah.
The story of the one that got away, or so I thought. A few years ago I was the youth minister in a small town. It was a small town in every sense of the word; two stoplights, no fast food, everyone knew everyone, and there was no room for invasion. Being the youth minister in that kind of setting has its own challenges to be sure, but there were aspects of this ministry that were just heartbreaking. There were a ton of students in the neighborhood around the church, many of which were facing lifelong battles with drugs, alcohol, abuse, and general lack of opportunities. If they didn’t get out and go to college after high school their chances of leaving were slim to none.
Which brings me to a particular student. She was an incredible young lady, with a bright future ahead of her. She was clever, driven, and had a passion for serving in the name of Jesus Christ. For all intents and purposes she would be a leader in the youth group that would inspire her younger peers to strive for more than the sad status quo they were use to.
That was until she became pregnant. It broke my heart to see her fall into the cycle of teenage pregnancy that was so rampant in the area. I feared what the coming of her first child would do to her future, but continued to love her and her family, and reach out in every way that a small church could. To my great surprise, and after many prayers, she finished high school.
A few short months later I found myself in another church a few hours away. I tried to keep in touch with her and some others for a while, but time and distance quickly pushed her out of my focus. When last I heard from her she was struggling in unimaginable ways, being a young, unemployed, single mother with no hope and no way out. She marked what I considered to be one of my greatest failures in ministry.
Until a couple of months ago, when I received a call from her that would change my mind about ministry. She was reaching out because she needed someone to play the piano for her at her wedding. I told her that nothing would make me happier and couldn’t wait to sit down and help her plan this out. She told me all about the man that would soon be her husband, how he was willing and excited about being the father to her fatherless child, how he had helped her get a good job at a tire factory, and how much she loved working there! Then she told me something I didn’t expect, she wanted me in addition to playing the piano to read some scripture and give a short message in the service. She told how she remembered all the hours in bible study and worship services where I had read scripture and gave messages of hope and love that she didn’t know were possible.
The day of the wedding, I read 1 Cor. 13, a wonderful and traditional wedding passage. But instead of focusing on the qualities of love, I focused on the final verses, how we see now in part, but one day we will see in whole, and how we have grown and put away childish things. The message was as much for me as for her. We never know how things are going to work out, especially in youth ministry. We do all we can and hope for the best. We hope that we’ve laid a foundation for the students to stand on for the rest of their lives. We hope that they will grow into mature believers with faith that can weather any storm. In this case, God proved how valuable this student was by seeing her through an incredibly difficult time and showing her life on the other side.