I had two different Youth Pastor's growing up and many amazing lay youth leaders at Morrow UMC. They saw me at my finest teenage moments. The other five years and eleven months they saw the real teenage me. The awkward, obnoxious, rude, know-it-all that I still am but suppress as much as possible.
After working in youth ministry for the past 13 years, I am way overdue in writing all of these wonderful people a letter of apology.
As a parent, there was a moment where I got frustrated with my children and decided I needed to tell my parents that I'm sorry for doing the exact same thing that my kids just did 30 years ago. It doesn't always happen the same way in youth ministry. So for all the youth workers of America, this letter is for you...
Dear Trinka, Willy, Papa Ray, Mama Johnson, The Brannons, et al,
You'd be happy to know that God finally got a hold of me and I am now focusing my life on Him most of the time. I have finally learned what Grace is and realize that you all showed me Grace in an abundance of ways while I was in your youth group. There are so many things that I'd like to thank you for but right now I'd like to focus on a few things that I need to apologize for.
1) Rolling My Eyes - I'd like to make the excuse that I was looking toward heaven but we both know that is not the case. Eye rolling is mandatory among teenagers. Although I don't believe in predestination, I do think that it might apply to eye rolling in teenagers. So I guess I should cut myself some slack except that I didn't just roll my eyes when the adults said something that showed their age. I won the gold medal in eye rolling. I became a champion in the ocular muscle movement. But I can't forgive myself for the eye rolling that took place during the times you showed me your heart and I rebelled. I realize now that I probably hurt you during those times and I'm sorry. (Along the same lines, I'd like to apologize for huffing, whispers, snickers, and sassiness that was uncalled for.)
2) The Social Club Mindset - For much of my teenage years and into my twenties, I thought of church as a place to meet people. It was all about having fun with prayer included. Doing things like reading the Bible or being a good steward were not on my radar. Then when I got to seminary I had the audacity to ask why my church had not taught me more when I was younger. I realize now that there were several opportunities to become a better disciple, but I complained that we weren't doing enough fun things. Although I'm grateful for the fellowship and friendships I had in my youth, I'm also grateful for those adults who tried to help me become a better disciple and I wish I'd paid attention more.
3) Not Sharing - I'm an only child. I guess that could serve as a sufficient explanation. But the world from birth to age 18 was all about me. I never realized the importance of sharing the little things like the popcorn I brought as a snack, much less the bigger things like my faith. I realize now, if I really like something, then I should share it. Tell people about that great restaurant. Let people know how amazing that doctor is. And above all else, share the love of God.
I'm sure there are many other things I should apologize for but these are the big three I can think of right now. And I'll also have you know that no matter how teenage-like I was during my teen years, your wisdom did sink in. It shaped who I am and is still helping me to be a better person.
Thank you and bless you.
Until Everyone Hears,