To the man who sat in that weird hallway between the worship room and the lounge at Rock Mountain Bible Camp and talked to a fifteen year old for an hour about her ministry to the 5th and 6th grade girls as if what she was doing was on par with foreign missions. To that same man who during a long and weary bus ride promised the girl she didn’t need to have her entire life plan mapped out by the end of this, her junior year. To the man who lit tiki torches and then went inside when she and her not-even-dating-yet-but-gonna-be-her-husband-in-3-years went swimming in his pool alone at night (seriously what was that? We kept half the length of the pool between us at all times, because even we knew tiki torches and midnight swims were more Real World than youth group). To the man who was wiser, more humble and more insightful than I was able to give him credit for in my teenage years. To the man who was the first to tell us we are important now, not when we grow up. To the man who could harness the emotions and passions of immature teenagers and channel them into service and love for the community.To the man who formed my understanding and ability to serve in youth ministry, even to this day.
To the man who was humble enough to let a bunch of eighteen-year-olds plan and run a trip because he had only been their Youth Pastor for two months and they knew what they wanted. To that same man who decided to take a gamble on an outspoken nineteen-year-old and let her preach to his youth group. To the man who introduced that girl to her passion and her favorite act of worship: speaking out truth to a group of teenagers. To the man who spoke the age old-words “I now pronounce you man and wife” over that same girl and her husband (and her sister and her husband). To the man who made celebrations out of the Oscars and March Madness and cold cereal. To the man who time and again took young, lost boys under his wing and helped them to mature into fully confident young men. To the man whose laughter rang through the halls of the church and who, I think, could convince anyone that following God was a joy-filled experience.
To the man who came hurt from another church, yet threw himself wholeheartedly into serving ours. To the man who viewed his leadership team not as support staff but as people he would support. To the man who bought gifts and cooked meals for his team. To the man who let them run wild with their creative ideas for youth ministry and took the fall when parents didn’t think they went so great. To the man who was always willing to do the hard boring difficult stuff- cleaning up after other ministries, shopping for food for a hundred teenagers, driving people home when they didn’t have a ride. To the man who lent me perspective towards criticism. To the man, who, rather than cancel the winter retreat when his son was born let a bunch of untrained, unpaid staff run the whole thing and encouraged and supported them through it all.
And to their wives who have their own stories apart from their husbands. Who have been my friends and mentors. Who are fierce and strong and true and who have sacrificed mountains and oceans and family and friends to allow their husbands to live out their calling.
It’s National Pastor Appreciation week and the vast majority of my spiritual life has occurred in Youth Ministry. So thank you to my youth pastors!