You'd think after working with teens this long, that not much would surprise me in youth ministry. But lately, I've been pleasantly surprised several times.
- I've been surprised by the ease of a convo with a student or two when I thought for sure it was going to be like pulling teeth to have any kinda significant discussion.
- I've been surprised by the level of ownership of a few of our serving teams by their student leaders.
- But the thing that has surprised me most lately is how much stuff students save from our youth ministry. Kinda like this post from a few years ago.
ABOUT 11 YEARS AGO...
We gave students a chance to make a commitment to Jesus and to regularly attending our high school ministry called Powerhouse. Then just this week I received a text message and an attached photo that read, "Was going through my wallet and found this."
It was from Danny Loughran who graduated from Washington High School back in 2002 and we gave them out somewhere in the middle of his high school carreer! He sent me an e-mail later that day too that read, "The card has been worn. The name has almost faded. But the commitment still stands. I thought you would appreciate it."
Danny, You know I did.
ABOUT 6 YEARS AGO...
I moved to San Diego after having been a youth pastor at Powerhouse for almost 11 years. It was the hardest thing I'd done to date in ministry. Leaving behind a ministry where I had cut my teeth in ministry poured my heart and soul into was a huge faith stretcher for me.
Anyway, one of my favorite parts of the ministry was a student leadership team we had for seniors only called the Timothy Tag Team (TTT). It was solely by invitation and was offered to the seniors who had stepped it up and owned their faith and our ministry the most over the previous years. It culminated in their final summer with a local missions/bonding trip. Due to my transition to San Diego, the last group of seniors had to finish out the final 5 months of their senior year without me by their side when I left in February, 2005. A few days ago, one of them- Shawn Cummins- posted on facebook a letter I wrote to the team as they headed into their final TTT trip. Oh dang did it bring back memories. I copied it all below or you can read it on his facebook notes here. The baton he mentions was something I gave every student on my last Wed. Night in Powerhouse.
I remember reading this on the edge of the Grand Canyon, probably one of the most pivotal weeks of my life. Still have my baton this day...Miss you guys:
... By the time you read this, your year of the TTT will officially be done. You will have finished the task you stepped up to last September. Never before has the phrase "the brave, the proud, the few" been more true than to the Timothy Tag Team of 04/05. Every TTT in history has had at least one person who signed up at the start and bailed before the end, but your team- more than any other- has weighed in and taken some serious hits. The line up at the start of the year was filled with potential and a chance to become new friends who took one another to new heights and depths of faith and devotion to Jesus. Some stepped up to that challenge and some backed away. Yes, God's grace is sufficient for all of us, but when I pushed all the chips I had left across the table last February to the TTT and said to you, "The ball is now in your court, for real" and I gave you a baton and asked you not to drop it... Well you truly carried it.
I wish with all my heart that I was in town this weekend so that I could be there to say this to you personally and probably cry as I tired to read it. But with as much gratitude and strength that I can muster up, I want to clearly say to you in this letter, "I'm so proud of you. You Rock! You embody what it means to be a faithful servant in times of trial. I want to say thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for not dropping the ball. Thank you for taking the baton that Jesus placed in your hand and giving a full sprint for the finish line. Thanks for owning your faith. Thanks for making your faith in Jesus and your devotion to powerhouse not about pastors and leadership but about guts, faith, and perseverance. Thanks for stepping up."
There are few things in this life I have loved with more enthusiasm and commitment than the ministry of Powerhouse. When God called me to go, I left a piece of my soul in Fremont and I took memories and friendships and hope in Jesus Christ to fill the hole it created. Every TTT group before you had to step it up. Every TTT group before you had to decide if they wanted to keep or chuck the faith. But more than any other group, you had to really put your money where your mouth is and decided to embrace a God whose plans are not always ours when you could have decided to be bitter, angry or apathetic to the change that God has called Powerhouse to. Thanks for Caring. Thanks for loving. Thanks for truly living.
I leave you with this verse as a reminder and challenge as you too turn the corner and leave a piece of your life behind- your high school days in Powerhouse. In a sense your race with the Baton of faith is just beginning and the finish line is nowhere in sight if you live to be a senior citizen. So, remember the challenge of Paul to those in difficult situations in the Colossian church. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Col 3:23-24.
Carrying the baton with you. Your friend and youth pastor,
Brian C. Berry
The Last Standing of Timothy Tag Team '04-'05 (minus Shawn who is behind the camera)Thanks Shawn, you bless me.
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, ABOUT 2 YEARS AGO...
I put on our Encounter High School Ministry weekend program a simple sentence. It was on the back next to the announcements a plainly read, "I'll pay you $100 for the first person to save 75 completed weekend outlines" or something like that. I never announced it or drew any attention to it and only ran it one weekend. I never knew if anyone even noticed.
Then last April or so, I had a couple of students (Christa and Michael) come up to me and say on consecutive sundays, "Here's my stack". They both had independently and quietly accepted my challenge and saved the outlines from the weekends they attended. Maybe it's just the power of a bribe... but I was blessed anyway by those who stepped up to the plate.