In June of 2011, much to my surprise, I was asked by our Sr. Pastor to be the “temporary” Youth Pastor of our church. I never in my life thought I would be a Youth Pastor. I never intended on being a Youth Pastor. I was 47 yrs old and had just helped my last kid out of the nest. I was all set for the adventures of empty nesting! Do what I want, when I want and all that. I was a little shocked and unsure of anything. Some of my co-workers and ministry partners said that I actually looked a little mad.
It was quit an abrupt change for me and the teens. They had just lost a pretty cool pastor, very abruptly and under less than ideal circumstances got an old guy. I could see the mistrust on their faces. I could feel the disappointment and betrayal they carried. I watched, helpless, as many of them drifted off, too attached to the old pastor, too disappointed to stay. In addition, I had my hands full with the youth volunteers, who fancied themselves all to be leaders, not servants. I could feel their resistance to the change I was trying to bring. I spent many hours listening to advice from them, you know, “this is how we used to do it” or “aren’t you just temporary, why are you making changes?” Too make a long story short, it was a long first year. Lots of turn over in the teens, losing half the volunteers within one month, trying to learn the puzzle of youth ministry and so on.
And I remember the change. I remember turning the corner and feeling like it was going to be ok. I remember the first new “Youth Mentor” that came to me and said she would like to give youth a try. I remember the first teen who said “you’re alright pastor”. I remember the first teen I prayed with. I remember the first teen to respond to the message I was giving. I remember all of it. The teens who stuck it out and are now stepping into ministry. The ones who left and the ones who came back. I especially remember the first time I was called Pastor Dad. I felt my chest go out a little and I stood up straighter. That term described more about how I felt about the teens than it did about me. I came to feel protective of my teens. I came to see them as my own. I would find myself defending them against anyone who said something about a teen. I would catch myself thinking about them and how they were doing during a long break from Collide or even during the school day. I would look forward to seeing them on a weekend or on Wednesdays. My heart would break when I heard about things that had happened to them. Many times I would be angry over the injustice that happened to them. I simply fell in love with them.
I also remember the new Mentors coming in who had an attitude of serving. What a breath of fresh air. I could not be who I am without these Mentors. I could never have done this ministry without my Mentors. The Mentors are the ones who deserve the credit, the praise and the rewards they will recieve. They served, prayed, cried, lead, prayed some more, gave up their vacations, prayed for me, supported my ideas, gave me better ideas and poured their lives into our teens. I want to take a moment to honor them the best I can.
To my Mentors, (in alphabetical order…cuz that’s how I roll)
Adrienne, There are not enough words in the world to tell you how much you have affected my life, not enough words to tell you how much I care about you. I watched you grow from a quiet, shy young lady into a strong, Spirit filled woman of God. I watched you minister and fall in love with the teens and them love you back. You lead them in worship, in prayer and a genuine, passionate pursuit of God. I watched as you let God make you Brave and then you stepped into the deep waters of faith. I am so proud of you. I am honored to have ministered with you, to have gone on missions trips, to have worshipped God with you. You have shown me what grace really is all about. Your gentle spirit spoke volumes to me, your completely different approach to God taught me to slow down and breath. I cherish the talks we have had while we sat in the tech booth getting ready for youth group. I miss hearing you say “DAVE” when I was doing something dumb or when you would referee between me and Israel. I look forward to the next chapters that God will be writing in your life. You have shown us that worship doesn’t just happen in the sanctuary , but by the way you live your life. You have shown us that following God and seeking his will is the highest form of worship one can give. You are a like a tree planted by the water, your roots extend into the stream and you do not fear when the heat comes and your leaves are green and fruitful, because you trust in the Lord. You bring encouragement and hope everywhere you go. God bless You.
Amber, you were the first Mentor I put my full trust in. A trust that you have never broken. You had no hidden agenda…your agenda was always obvious, it was always about the teens. The way you dreamed about the possibilities for youth group used to scare me. You showed me the potential we had and I didn’t know if I could achieve it. You always challenged me with your relentless desire to be and do better for the teens. You have always been about the teens. We have been through some really awesome times together and some hard times. You walked in grace and dignity, always. After you left, I was as devastated as you were. Many times I thought, “What would Amber do?” TBH I think we sometimes irritated each other. We are both a little driven, a little stubborn and very passionate about what we do. No doubt, God put us together to make some pearls. And as luck would have we are working together again! God is not done with us. I’m glad that we are still journeying together on a daily basis. I look forward to growing with you and watching your family grow. I imagine that before we know it, we will be watching Belle and Justus graduate.
Andy, you stuck with it as the youth group was going through upheaval and massive change. You are wise beyond your years and you knew that Youth Group was more than a pastor. You knew that God was bigger than the Youth Group. You may think that Lexi was the reason your family ended up in this church and found God. But I believe it was you. I believe you modeled Christ to your family as you gave of yourself to save your sister. I believe God has blessed you and put a call on you that will affect countless people. I have watched you answer that call every step of the way. Right when I had all these plans to be working with you over the next few years everything changed, upheaval again, but for a reason; You will be challenged in new ways, grow in new ways and seek God in new ways. I leave you with this charge; support David as you have supported me. Put your soul into this youth group, follow the call, wherever it may bring you. I’ll be standing next to you at your licensing ceremony. Now, go clean a toilet, intern.
Anne, firecracker-sass-a-frass get your gun, Farmer. I’m actually still trying to figure you out. At first, I thought you were just a funny wise cracking midwest girl, then I say your love and care for special needs kids, then I saw a little bit of your heart as you opened up, then I saw how much joy you have in life and how much you love God and there is no doubt, more to learn about you. I hate the thought of not doing ministry with you. I hate the thought that I might miss some funny or serious thing I could learn about you. Or the ministry we may have done together. God brings people into each others life for a reason, a time. I have fully cherished this time with you and can’t wait to celebrate with you and Trenten as, no doubt, you bring another sass-a- frass into this world. I promise to do my best and eat real man food.
Bethanie, you love God so much. You desire to do his will. You are a free spirit that He will do wonderful things with. The day I met you, I knew you were special, I knew that God had plans for you. I felt the Holy Spirit about you. You have depth and maturity and a love for God that is so encouraging to me. Your story has broke my heart at times and your actions, even in the midst of hardship, give me hope. The adventures to come will be filled with God and your praises for him.Your story is far from finished. Follow your dreams, I believe that they are God’s dreams too.
Cole, you were almost my son-in-law. Zach sure let a good one go! (inside joke, people). You were there from the beginning and you were committed to serve. You did every crappy job I asked of you and you did it well. You have always served the youth and now you are serving our country. You never complained and I believe you were happiest when you were living the Scriptures about putting yourself last and others first. You are an honorable man. A loyal friend to my son and a dedicated Mentor to the guys of the youth group. Semper Fi.
Catherine, I have been your pastor longer than anyone else in this group. You too stayed with it during many changes over the years. You were faithful to your Youth Group and your church. I will remember little things about our time here, like you doing homework when your parents were in my home group, celebrating your mom’s birthday, and watching so many people come and go in this group. You have always been a bright spot in my life and ministry. Always a witty remark, always a laugh. Then life changed and you dealt with it, head-on. You are in the midst experiencing beauty from ashes. Your experiences motived you to action. Good action, things like the “Dear Beautiful” conference came from your pain. Things like self discovery and spiritual development. Things like knowing it is time to evolve and making hard decisions about where to grow next. As you step out in faith in the next chapter of life, God Bless you in your journey. Thank you for allowing me to be your pastor.
Christopher or Christian, whichever you prefer, I seriously don’t remember ever asking you to be a Mentor. You just mysteriously appeared, then disappeared, then reappeared….you always brought an element of surprise and spontaneity to youth group. You brought a reality to us that we never experienced, yet needed to hear. We needed to know about the evils you faced and survived so we could truly understand the goodness of God. You are a person who does action ministry. I watched as you quietly took action in your group, buying a coat for one, sponsoring another to camp or Despo. Saving lives in Boston. You are a true hero.
Greg, I know we are not standing at the urinals, ( another inside joke) but I want to tell you that you rock the guitar! I love hearing you “pray” through your guitar. May your guitar never weep, but always sing the praises of our God. I remember the day I asked you to be a mentor and you were so surprised, with that “who me?” look on your face. You said you were not qualified but that you would try. God does great things with the under-qualified, willing souls, in this world. Thank you for trying, thank you for being willing. God has qualified you. I know that you are exactly where you need to be. You are exactly in the right group with the 6-7th grade guys. You get them, you teach them to explore, you answer their questions in a way they understand. I also know that God is calling you deeper. Houston has given the orders, stay the course.
Lindsey, my steady Freddie. You have served selflessly, without complaint. Your mantra is “what can I do?” You Give birth on a Monday, bake cupcakes on Tuesday and are at youth group on Wednesday! You raise chickens, duck and boys, go organic, make weird cheeses or something like that….you are truly a hippie at heart …which totally confuses me. You love your family fiercely and you love these teens more than they will ever know. Your integrity and principles have always challenged me to be better. Your desire to know God has always encouraged me. You are a testament to every Army wife who has waited patiently and raised your family. I have watched you walk through painful times with your head held high, knowing you are a daughter of God. God has given you a vision for ministry to pregnant teen girls. You have so desired to do this and life keeps putting it on hold…don’t worry, be patient, God is lining everything up for you.
Lyndsey with 2 “Y’s”, you are the future of the Mentors. Your journey has just begun. You have big shoes to fill and so many memories to make with this group. May your future here be blessed with the same love and joy that I have felt. May your future be blessed with strong bonds to the teens you will be mentoring. You are surrounded by so many good people. People who love God. Allow them to speak into you and affect your life.
Melanie, I remember the first night you came to Youth Group. The teens were writing some serious stuff on the posters and afterwards we mentors had some prayer time and you again heard some pretty serious stuff. I was afraid you wouldn’t come back! I actually thought that because you lived “up north” we might be a bit rough around the edges for you. Forgive me for judging! Little did I know that you were already falling in love with this group, little did I know what plans God had for you and us. I have watched as you have given more and more of yourself to the teens and mentors. You combine a gentle, sweet spirit and a strength that is filled with hope and confidence in your God. You also have a sense of humor that I barely scratched the surface of. A sense of humor is a great gift. It brings joy. Keep spreading that joy. You worship openly and genuinely. I believe you literally glow when you lead us in worship. I don’t know what God has in store for you next. I do know that you will always be seeking him, always ready to do his will and you will be blessed by it. When you became our worship leader I had plans and ideas. I imagined us working on themes for special events, talking about upcoming series, combining the sermon with the music, me teaching you the proper way to sing a song (another very obvious joke). God has new plans for us. Plans that he is literally giddy about. Plans that I can’t wait to see play out.
Nicole, what a year for you! Our time has been short, but full. I have watched you embrace the love this group has for you. I have watched you work hard to get where you are physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have witnessed you give all the glory to God. You never give up. You know his love. You have experienced his restoration to broken things in life. You are always looking forward to the next good thing God has for you. Your heart is tender and always seeing the good in people. You are stronger than you think and have so much to offer the teens. I am looking forward to seeing you in our church for years to come. I am looking forward to seeing a testimony to God’s love and healing in action. Live Strong.
Tea, Mama Tea, Mama T, when I hear you say “Pastor Dave! this is not safe” or ‘Pastor Dave, this is inappropriate” I take that as a good indicator that things are about to get exciting! I remember when I became the Youth Pastor, you were in trouble. You had doubts, you didn’t come to the Youth Group. I didn’t see you for such a long time. Then Marco died and you came to our memorial for him. You looked sad and lonely. You spoke of how it felt to be lost and in darkness, even hinting at understanding how someone could take their life. Then you disappeared again. I don’t know everything that you went through in those years, but I do know it was painful. And yet, you came out on the other side better and stronger. You reappeared like the sun suddenly coming out from behind the clouds. You broke through and had a renewed passion for God. It has spilled over into our group. I have enjoyed being a part of the journey you are on. I am honored to be with you as you hear God’s voice and work through what it means for your life. You are marked and sealed by God for good things. I love the way you talk to him during our prayer times. I love the way you never let go of him. Continue to trust him and follow him.
Trenten, you are so dang quiet that I sometimes have to look around to make sure you are here. But without lots of words you have shown us who you are. I can tell you are a man of integrity, honor, trustworthiness and humility. I know this, not because of what you say, but by the way Anne looks at you and talks about you. She simply adores you. Your child will adore you. One thing every youth group needs are strong men who love their God and their wives. Men who serve and take care of their families. Men who sacrifice. You are that man. I will hold your hand during Anne’s labor if you need me.
To my Teens,
These last 4 1/2 years have been the best of my life. You have been so accepting, so willing to act on what we have taught you. You bring me life and give me hope for the future of the church. I want to tell you a few things…
Collide is about you. It has always been about you. Every time we mentors planned a series, spoke to you, prayed with and for you, planned a retreat or trip or camp, every Night of Thanks and Holy Ground night has always about you. We have ministered to you because you matter. We have challenged you to be better, stronger and closer to God. We have experienced God’s grace with you and experienced your hard times with you. We have worked to help you understand what Faith Meeting Life really means.
We have done all of this because we want you to be better. We know you can be better. You must be better.
Collide is more than a Person, a Pastor or a Mentor or even your friends. Collide is about you taking hold of your faith and bringing it into your life. It is about seeking God no matter the cost, no matter the outcome of your life. It’s about getting serious about your life. It’s about finding the call and purpose God has for you and following it. Live a Fierce Faith. Never. Bow. Down.
My hope is that I have challenged you to do this and you will accept the challenge. My hope is that those of you who have accepted that challenge will fulfill it. My hope is that you will still be standing firm when you are my age.
I think of the future…seeing you grow, seeing you graduate and stepping into your life that you are so eager to start. When you step out into the world, bring Collide with you. Bring all of these experiences, all the moments you had with God, all the worship you experienced, all the growth. Go! Do big things Collide!
I leave you with this charge: Treat each other as bothers and sisters in Christ, learn from your Mentors, love your new Pastor. Treat him as you have treated me. Grow with him, trust him and have fun with him.