12/20/2008 01:13:00 am

The Youth

Posted by Unknown |

I had my last night of youth group tonight. We had the Christmas Party, which is always one of the highlights of the year for me.

We had lots of sausages and steak and bread and chips and drink. People swam and played pool and chatted and pretended to beat each other up.

Near the end we had the speeches. We thanked all the leaders and gave them claps and cheers.

I wanted to publicly thank the leaders because I love them all a lot, but I'm not sure I'm all that good at expressing it. I don't know how well I did tonight. But I hope they know that I love and value them.

Then is was my turn. The leaders had collected a bag of letters for me from the young people. So many people telling me they like my t-shirts. I knew I was good for something. I read all the letters just then on the couch. People are so kind, and I feel totally loved. I feel so humbled when people tell me I have made a difference in their life. Maybe in the future it'll give me a big head, but when you hear it for the first time you feel like there's this whole alternate reality going on. You hear of people's experiences of what's been significant to them when you were feeling entirely insignificant. You feel like you don't really deserve to have made an impact, the role should go to someone better, someone more inspiring.

I was also given a photo collage of photos from all the years of youth ministry I've had at my church. I love looking at photos of the youth group. I suspect that seeing my youth group brings up small amounts of similar feelings that parents have when they see their kids. I have such affection for all of them. I'll probably look at these photos even more than I look at the photos of the Hannahvan.

A few people spoke up and said nice things about me.

I had to make a response. I tried. It was difficult. I really wanted to tell people that the person following after me will not be me, but they will be good. There will never be another me that leads the youth ministry. That time is over. But God isn't wanting to use me or someone like me there any more. And the person who comes, if they tried to emulate me would fail. There are things that need doing, things that I'm not real good at, but things which the new youth minister can do. I'm excited because I love the young people, and the new person will be good for them.

I asked them to stay committed because change isn't always easy, so people need to commit to riding it out before it happens, just in case they don't like it. I'm not saying the changes are going to be bad, just that, chances are, not everyone is going to like them.

I really wanted to tell the young people how much I have loved serving them. They're a wonderful bunch of people. People have wondered about the extent of my commitment, why do I spend so much time doing youth ministry? I know that there have been lots of sacrifices I have made for this group of youth. Lots of nights spent out, lots of hours agonising, lots of stress, lots of angst, lots of loneliness, lots of hurt. But never have I felt ripped off by them. Never have I felt like it hasn't been worth it. I have never once resented giving anything up for the young people I have led these past six years. And it's not because I'm amazing, but because they are.

Ministry takes a lot out of you, but it gives a lot back. I've always felt privileged to have one of the best jobs in the world.

More than wanting the young people to know that I love them, I wanted them to know that Jesus loves them. I'm not sure how well I did this. But I'm hoping it's been clear over my time. I don't really care if they all forget about me in 6 months time. If they're all loving and serving Jesus then I'm happy. I want them to see that Jesus is everything. That he loves them and has given them more than any youth leader, any parent, any lover, any other person, could ever give them. I want to meet them in years to come and know that they're still following Jesus. And more than that I want to know there are other people following Jesus as a result of their own faith in Jesus.

When I finished talking I prayed for them and it was such a privilege.

Then it was time for presents.

I don't really feel like it's over. But what has sunk in doesn't make me feel relief. Right now I don't want to have to leave. I want to hang out with these guys forever. Leaving the youth is going to be the hardest bit of this whole leaving thing.

Happily though, I've not left yet. I'll see them all on Sunday! Yippah!

I thank God for everything he has let me do. I'm thankful that he lent me a bunch of young people to look after for six years. I pray he uses what I've done well. What I haven't done which I should have done, and what I shouldn't have done and what I should have done better, I pray he works despite that.

I'm feeling well loved tonight and I'm feeling much love in return.