I think I live for the long term friendships in youth ministry. I love them. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my friendships with existing students, but it is my former students who become friends as adults that I think is where the real stuff of youth ministry is made. Anyone can hang around in high school. It's those who stick it out and stay that way over the long haul that keeps me loving my job and reminds me why I do it. In the past month, here's what has come my way via the mail, the phone, and the Internet from former students turned current good friends- some dating back to my very first year as a youth pastor- 13 years ago.
- An invitation to perform a wedding for a former student/intern who I deeply regret was on a weekend I could not perform it.
- An invitation to perform a wedding in September from 2 former students who love Jesus and desire a marriage centered on their faith. I was able to accept this invitation and I can't wait.
- An invitation to perform a wedding 2 years from now. Yep, 2 years :) Longest engagement ever. But cool privilege.
- A note thanking me for years of friendship and enclosed 20ish pictures that are from back in the day when this former student was in high school. Now she's married to a youth pastor colleague of mine and is a mom!!!!
- A set of 4 outlines from various years of a former students high school years. They were a sampling she sent to me to remind me that there are some who take the notes and some who actually go on to even live them as their own. It was totally weird to look at those old messages, but a huge blessing to me.
- A call from a former student/intern one morning just as I pulled into work, "Just to check in." 20 minutes later, I was so glad he did.
- A note from a gal out of the blue who had a nice note and coffee and candy from Pete's- where she works!!!! It even said there might be more to come. Oh, boy did I feel the love there. I need more former students to get jobs where they get deals on coffee.
- An e-mail with a picture of a former student who is pregnant and telling me praises of how she and a member of her family that were anything but tight in high school have reconciled and how they have become friends some 12+ years later. That made my day.
- A call from a former student who gave me over the phone instructions on how to wax my snowboard. Thanks for the help.
To all the former students out there who have become my valued friends- both those who I've heard from recently and those who I have not... you rock. Thanks for loving Jesus and living the faith as your own. Thanks for staying friends. You mean the world to me.