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 Stories of my Youth
While a Missouri-native, Abby Pratt currently lives in Richmond, VA where she serves as the Associate Pastor of Youth and Mission at Central Baptist Church. Abby graduated from Wake Forest University School of Divinity in 2014 and was ordained by Peace Haven Baptist Church (also in Winston-Salem, NC). With roots in Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia, Abby is a fan of KU Basketball, the Kansas City Royals, CookOut Milkshakes, and tacky Christmas lights.
This past summer I took a group of high school students to New York City to lead a week of Clue Camp at Metro Baptist Church. As I watched my students say goodbye to their parents and siblings, I knew that this trip would be unlike the many other trips we had gone on before. For several of my students this would be their first time in New York City and their first time on a mission trip. It was in this moment that I had the idea to have my students blog throughout the week. I wanted them to be able to share with their families and our church family what they were seeing, thinking, and feeling. As we traveled on the train, I quickly found the blog our church had used in the past, recovered the password, and created templates for the week. In doing so, I wondered if I was crazy to try and do this. When I shared the exciting news about our group blog with my students, they were more confused, much less enthusiastic, and much more affirming in the questioning of my insanity.
In the midst of glitter, climbing what seemed like thousands of stairs, subway rides, and the sharing love for one another and the children we worked with, something happened that I had not expected. Each night I would pass my computer off to one or two students who would then spend an hour or two writing the blog for the day. Most of the time this happened between 10pm and 1 am. In the morning I would wake up early to post the blog. My groggy eyes would open a little wider and a huge smile would come across my face as I read the stories my students were telling. I read how they had been nervous about leading camp but after the first day they gained confidence in being camp leaders. They told stories of strength and maturity when they made the decision to sing silly songs on Field Trip Day to help the students forget how much their feet hurt from walking all day. They told stories of seeing God through the courage of the campers to try new things while they were at camp. And seeing God through getting to know the children who were either ornery or shy at first but became their buddy by the end of the week. I laughed when I read their stories about not really liking to do something or when they voiced their opinion about a decision that had been made. The stories in which their individual voice was heard loud and clear was a gift to me to get to know my students in new ways. Most of my student’s blogs ended by thanking the church, family members, and leaders for the opportunity to come to New York City. As parents, church members, and friends read these blogs they reposted, left comments, and shared in the stories of my students. They added to our story by telling the story that even when we were far away from home, we were not without their love and care.
The experience of blogging was my attempt to share and empower my students to share their story. At the same time, reading their stories was a humbling and amazing gift for me. I am thankful for how each of these students shared their story and how it has shaped my own story and our churches story.