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 started by a Facebook reminder
Felicia Fox is the Associate Pastor of Students & Families at First Baptist Mount Olive. She is a graduate of the M. Christopher White School of Divinity at Gardner-Webb University. She enjoys helping young people see God in their everyday lives, painting, attending roller derbies, and playing with her three dogs.
The story inspired by a Facebook reminder. Last week I got a blast from the past thanks to a memory from Facebook. It was a photo I posted five years ago of a group of fifth graders I was taking to kid’s camp. Fast forward five years and I took those same students to youth camp a few weeks ago. My first reaction was, “Wow, where has the time gone.” My next reaction was to remember all the adventures I’ve had with these students.
As I write this blog I’m reminded by how much my story as a youth minister and the stories of these students are connected. I’ve seen them grow from being awkward middle schoolers to more confident high schoolers. I’ve seen them wrestle with issues of faith, ask good questions about Church, and have more than enough “come to Jesus” meetings. We will forever be a part of each other’s stories because of the time I’ve been blessed to share with them. Here are a few ways they have affected my story.
First, they have added a lot of laughter to my story. I’ll never forgot building a fort out of all the youth room furniture with these students. You can make a pretty big fort when you have three couches, four loveseats, and a room full of random stuff at your disposal. I’m convinced at least one of these students will grow up to be an architect. I’ll also never forget the church bus dance parties we’ve had in random parking lots all over the south. I especially won’t forget the night security showed up. These moments of total random silliness help in building the relationships that allow youth ministers and youth to impact each other’s stories. They make room for the holy moments that come later.
These students and I have helped each other during hard moments of each other’s stories. They offered me support and prayer when my mother was in the hospital. They’ve showed up at random moments with hugs and kind words when I’ve needed them. They even provided a listening ear as I’ve shared about moments that rocked my faith as a young person. I’ve also been blessed to return that support and love. I’ve been able to sit by them in moments of grief and pain. I’ve visited them in the hospital, taken care of them while sick on trips, and listened as they’ve shared about issues they were facing. It truly is a blessing to be able to share these holy moments with them.
These students have made me a better minister. I have a couple of students that I know will always ask the hard questions during Bible Study. Knowing that those questions will most likely be asked has caused me to make sure I’ve done the best I can to be prepared. The students know that they can ask the questions they need to and we will find the answers together. They have also helped me learn it is okay to say, “I don’t know.” I hope they will continue to ask good questions as they keep writing their own faith stories.
I’ve also been blessed to see them minister to people in our own community and on mission trips. I’ve seen them push their selves out of their comfort zones to make sure homeless folks in Atlanta felt loved and respected. I’ve seen them embrace those who were different from them and encourage others to do the same. I’ve seen them live out the calling to be the hands and feet of Christ with enthusiasm and great compassion. Their example has encouraged me to do the same.
It’s nice to pause in youth ministry and remember the moments you’ve shared with your youth. I helps you see the story you are writing together and the impact they are having on your own. Stories are what connect us to each other. I’m grateful I get to share this story with these great teenagers.