An Imperfect Glorious Body
This past Sunday was a special night for the Youthreach. Each year on the first “Sunday Night Live” of August we take an evening and say farewell to the seniors who have been engaged in the youth ministry. Let me just take a second and really brag on this year’s group! Jordan, Zach, Anna, and Sharee have been true leaders in the youth ministry at Southeastern by setting examples for our group through multiple ways. They’ve taught classes, led small groups, invited friends, worked hard when we are serving, stepped up to greet visitors, written and performed songs, led singing, organized youth events, served as student interns, and challenged younger kids in the group to mature when they needed a “nudge” and encouraged those same teens when they’ve done well. The list of what they’ve meant to our group could go on and can’t just be judged by what they did but who they are. In fact, Sunday night I learned things that some of these teens have done that I wasn’t even aware as I listened to the teens share stories with each other. It brought me joy to be reminded how this group has lived out their faith.
However, it was also a little bitter sweet. After Zach and Jordan head off for college (Good luck Lipscomb and York, you don’t know what’s headed your way!), I will only have one student who was in the Teen Center when I started here 6 years ago. And that’s just because Tim snuck in some as a 6th grader! Wow, a complete turnover in our group. In youth ministry it happens every 6-7 years, but it still hits you as a minister to have a new group. Even without losing the whole group each year, it’s a crazy part of youth ministry to realize that each year our group will look just a little different as leaders that you’ve worked with and seen grow will be heading off to continue their growth as young Christians. However, it is also a reminder of just how powerful, resourceful, and creative God is! A few years ago someone told me they heard the youth ministry was really struggling and lots of people had left. I scratched my head and asked them who they were talking about. He proceeded to name the teens who had just graduated and acted as if we couldn’t possibly have recovered from those loses. I said, “well, we are having more kids coming right now than any time last year. And, we did lose some really good leaders, but others were stepping up to take on more responsibility.” That conversation took place in September. We went on to have one of the strongest years in ministry that I can remember in a long time. New leaders stepped up. New kids were introduced to the group. I was able to remind this person that we shouldn’t underestimate what God can do with people. Did we miss the individuals who had left? Absolutely! Were we going to sit around and sulk because we lost a group of leaders? Absolutely not! Why? Because God is bigger than any one individual or group of people! So, we kept on going and proceeded to see God grow up some teens in a powerful way.
Part of being in the body of Christ is realizing that God wants to use all the parts to reveal His glory on earth and is looking for those who will jump on board and follow Him! He sees the promise and ability in people before we do. You remember that group of kids at the start of this writing? In addition to the really good things they’ve done, there are some things they aren’t real proud of. And they shouldn’t be. Want an example? Last year, Sharee was… Just kidding! But, it’s in our recognition of our need for God’s grace that we open ourselves up to be redeemed instruments in this wonderful organism called the church. Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 sometime. Think about the promises and challenges of that passage. God sent Jesus so that we could have reconciliation with God despite our sin. He also goes on to remind us that it’s not just in order to be saved and get to Heaven, but so that we could be part of the Kingdom’s work here. While I see that process in youth ministry as a snapshot of just a few years for most of our teens, it is a life-long calling for us as God’s ambassadors. Let us follow our calling to love God, grow in our faith, and bring His love to the world as a body of believers living redeemed lives! Not because we are so good that God can’t do it without us, but because we are so thankful that he made us whole that we can’t help but share His message of Goodness!