Sometimes the violent wind of the Holy Spirit Nocks Yo Punkass Down. Today, it happened. It is go time in a major way. My church is looking for a youth director, and the woman who made the announcement that they needed an additional member of the search committee was sitting in the pew behind me. I turned around and said, “I want the job.” She said, “you want to be on the search committee?” I said, “no. I want the job.” She took down my e-mail address and we talked a little bit, and when the service ended, we talked some more. I managed to impress the hell out of her, and she’s going to put me before the search committee. I’ll be praying that goes well, too. I was so enthusiastic about the job that she said, “there are other applicants. I don’t know what we’re going to do about that.” I said, “I expect you to look at every applicant. I’m just telling you I’m the best.” I had a confidence in me that I have never seen, and she liked it. So did I.
Turns out, she’s a PK as well. I said, “regardless of whether I get this job, we need to go to lunch.” And we do. Preachers kids are a special breed. She said, “you know, they only come in two kinds.” I said, “it’s been interesting. At first, I was the dutiful daughter that wanted to go into the ministry, and my sister was the wild hair. And as we’ve gotten older, we’ve switched places. Now I want to find a balance- the youth minister with a wild hair.” I said, “kids love me. I dress just like them.” I was in brown pants and a surfer t-shirt with my hair spiked and she could clearly see my tattoos. She knew what I meant- that I could reach the kids because I knew where they were coming from.
The other thing we talked about is how to grow the group from where it is. They already have 40-50 kids that come on a regular basis, and I said, “do you advertise in the local high schools?” She said, “no, but that’s a great idea.” I said, “that’s how you grow a church. You don’t get the parents. You get the kids and the parents come with them. They are the church, because the pattern now is ‘go to church until high school/early college, drop out, and don’t come back until they have kids of their own. If we don’t grow the youth group, where are we going to get future members? How can we stop that cycle so that the kids are participating all along?” I also said that as a preacher’s kid, I’d worked in every aspect of the church. Every one…. and I’d never gotten paid for it. She laughed with the knowing of it, because as a PK herself, she’d been in that exact position her whole life, too.
I also made a point to ask what Matt is like as a boss. She said she didn’t know, but that he seemed like an introvert. I said, “we all are, aren’t we? Every pastor I know is an introvert with a big front on Sunday mornings.” We’re all writers and creators. We’re sociable, but need plenty of time to recharge our batteries. When I preach, afterwards I am usually spent of emotion. It takes your whole body and your whole mind to put it together. To step into the river and let the service flow.
I would be remiss not to thank Susan Leo for giving me a chance. I got my start preaching at Bridgeport UCC, and for that, I will always be grateful. She gave up her pulpit willingly and gladly so that I could get the confidence to really be who I am. If there’s anything I’ve learned from the devastation of divorce and recovery from it, it’s that I’ve been hiding a light that is about to come out. I’ve been in IT instead of using my God-given gifts, because I have been running from my calling and now je suis prest.
I want the youth to lead worship. I want the kids to own being members of the community. I want them to learn Christian responsibility, which is to take care of the people around you whether you know them or not. See need and respond. Just because you’re a teenager doesn’t mean you don’t have that gift.
People write off teenagers and don’t give them enough credit. When I took my kids at Bridgeport on a retreat, when they opened up, they really got down and dirty. They opened up their souls and poured them out, and the problems were more complex and carefully thought out than anyone not working with youth would guess. I carry their names tattooed on my heart because that weekend bonded us for life. I am still in touch with them through Facebook and that retreat was in 2004.
I divided them up into groups and gave them different color bandanas because it was Survivor themed (we were on an island). The tribes were named after the tribes of Israel, and they competed against each other and did trust exercises before we had worship every night…. except it didn’t look like traditional worship. It was sitting around a camp fire and praying for peace.
Sunday morning we had worship, and I will never forget Lauren’s sweet voice saying the words we said at Bridgeport each Sunday as the assurance, written by Susan herself:
We are God’s children, wonderfully made…
And as fallible as we are, we are no mistake.
Be responsible and let go of guilt.
Be mindful and carry no shame.
Believe the Good News of the Gospel
You are loved unconditionally by God.
You have never really heard those words until you’ve heard a child say them. You’ve never really heard a piece of Scripture until you hear a child read it. If I can direct that growth and change, so that high schoolers think being at church is cool because they’re not treated like children, then I will. Because treating them like children demotes them to being unable to take responsibility. It’s their church, too.
They need to take offering. They need to read Scripture. They need to preach. They need to own, instead of react.
God has been whispering my whole life. Today was NYPD. Tomorrow is “I got this.”