You see today is my last day as a youth minister. I will continue on in ministry, but I will serve as the lead pastor of a church. I look forward to that challenge. It is what God has called me to do. I am certain of that.
However, as I sit in my youth minister’s office for last time, deleting files and e-mails and passwords, I suddenly feel a deep sense of sadness. It hit me last night as I tried to sleep and weighed on me as I drove into the office this morning. After today, I will no longer be a youth minister.
I know. I know. Once a youth minister, always a youth minister. I get that. I understand that. I agree with that. But, at the same time, after today, youth ministry will not be my primary calling. Leading an entire congregation will be.
Twelve years ago, if you had told me this was in my future, I would have laughed. In fact, I did. My first pastor, a few months after I took the job as youth minister, told me the pastorate was in my future. Laughter was the response I gave. That was not my calling. Teenagers were.
At my ordination, they asked me, point blank, what were my ministry plans? My reply: to reach teenagers for Christ and to work in youth ministry. I dreamed of youth camps and mission trips and messy games events going way into my 50s and 60s. I didn’t want to do anything else.
God, though, had other plans. About 18 months ago, he began calling me to preach. I resisted. I fought. I begged. But you don’t really win those arguments with God.
So, here I am, on the last day of my youth ministry career. I look over photos and videos and calendars and sadness begins to creep in. For 12 years, this is all I wanted to do. Now, I’m moving on.
I had so much I wanted to do here and in youth ministry. We had camp in a month and mission trip three weeks later. Those were going to be watershed moments in our ministry. The students were buying into my philosophy. Relationships were finally starting to ripen. So much is left to be done.
And now it will be done by someone else. We have ample volunteers that will carry the torch. That’s what I love about youth ministry. It’s full of adults that love on kids. These adults will take over the leadership responsibilities and see to it that spiritual growth happens. I know I’m leaving these students in good hands.
So while I’m waxing poetically on my youth ministry career and lamenting growth, trips and graduations I won’t get to see, I take heart that life and ministry will go on. Someone else will take my place and lead this student ministry. Someone else will fill in the gap I leave on the front lines of youth ministry.
And I’m not done with youth ministry. Not by a long shot. I see pastoral ministry as just an extension of what I’ve been doing for 12 years. I want to engage the church with fellowships and discipleship and evangelism and thought-provoking discussions. I want adults to be part of what our students have been doing these past 12 years of my life.
You know, as I think about it, I’m not so melancholy after all.
I have hope and joy because I know ministry goes on. God is in control. He is not surprised. And as he moves me on to the pastorate, even today, he’s calling someone to be a youth pastor.
Maybe that’s you.
I hope it is. Because, let me tell you, it may be painful and frustrating at times, but it is definitely worth it.
Just ask the guy who’s leaving. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.