A Game Changer in Youth Ministry

It’s Orange Week, and so I’ll be talking all about my Favorite Ministry Conference of the Year for the next few days.

I’m super excited about this year’s theme of Game Changer, and I know that the Orange Conference will once again be a game changer for me and the Ministry I am blessed to lead.

But for some reason, I can’t help but think of another huge Game Changer in my life.

Orange Conference

A friend and fellow Orange Blogger Ben Kerns posted a video yesterday that was a recap of the Winter retreat he just got back from at Hume Lake camp in California. This is a place I haven’t really thought of much in the past few years, but 8 years ago as a Jr. in High School, I was at this very Winter Retreat with my Youth Group. I saw 15 seconds of the video and paused because all these thoughts kept coming back to me about that retreat, because it was a game changer in my life.

But here is the thing, I remember EVERYTHING about that retreat. I remember the inside Jokes my friends and I had from our cabin trying to fall asleep at night, I remember the walk from our cabin to where we would meet the girls and walk down to chapel or the cafeteria or the recreation areas. Speaking of girls, I remember that I did not have a girlfriend when we got to the retreat center, but I did have one when we left, and I remember that whole process, from making one of my friends who was a girl go in a different van so she could sit by the girl and put in a good word for me, to countless other little details about that process. I explicitly remember, also, falling off of my tube and sliding on a giant sheet of ice and scraping skin off of my hip bone to where I could see the bone, and going to the nurse and her telling me “You need to gain more weight, you have nothing to protect your bones from this sort of thing.” I still have a 4 inch scar there, though its faded, and where as it used to be on by hip bone, its now in a slightly different area.

I remember everything about this retreat, even the guy who spoke, his name was Eric Heard, and I found out last night he’s a pastor at Mariners Church. But I remember everything he said about himself that first night, how he was still in Youth Ministry in his 40′s and that was kind of rare.

But what I don’t remember are any of the talks, any of the lessons we did in our cabin. I don’t remember any of the teaching from this weekend, not even the general theme ( which I feel bad for, because now that I’m a Youth Pastor, I know how hard they probably worked on making a memorable theme. Oh well).

So what was a game changer for me? Was it the girl I started dating? No, she broke up with me because I was a bad influence for not always listening to “Christian Music.” From Facebook, I’d say I wasn’t the only bad influence she ever had.

Was the game changer that I ripped my side open and got too scared to do anything ever again? No. I still do stupid stuff, I’m a Youth Pastor after all.

No, the Game Changer was when my Youth Pastor pulled me aside for just a few minutes after that first talk when Eric mentioned he was rare, being in Youth Ministry at 45, and told me “Someday that will be you. God is calling you to bigger and better things than you can think of for yourself. You’re going to leave a legacy, live like it.”

It was nothing profound, not 3 point lesson or “Im going to impress you with my biblical knowledge” lecture.

Im sure to Aaron it was nothing, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a “Hey, quit joking around, live better” type lecture. But I know to me, it was a game changer. That someone outside of my family would see in me something I didn’t see yet, but that my parents had been telling me.

I may never leave a legacy of being the world’s greatest Youth Pastor, that award will probably never show up at my door. My legacy may only be that a few kids got saved from going through our ministry and they went on to live happy, Christian lives. But the words of Aaron have since and will forever be a challenge to me to Live like I’m going to leave a legacy, and never settle for what I think I am possible of.

15 Comments

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