So, believe it or not, I didn’t think I would cry at the last youth group meeting. I love the teens I work for and feel privileged having done the ministry God has allowed me to do the last nine years, but at the same time, I truly feel called to be at home with my children. Because of the certainty of that call, although there have been certain twinges of sadness…for the most part, each, ‘last’ is one step closer to being at home with my kids, hopefully achieving a somewhat normal schedule. So, in preparation for my last youth group meeting as a Coordinator of Youth Ministry, I didn’t think I’d cry. I was wrong.
|Dancing in the rain...|
You see, it started with the rain. We have teens that come after school sometimes and they asked me if they could have permission to go dance in the rain/wind that was beginning (how freaking cute that they asked for permission?). Of course, I told them yes. And I looked out the window, seeing their joy from something as simple as rain. I knew they were creating memories.
The specialness continued when this really cool young person named Jessie showed up. He became involved in youth ministry last year, right at the end of his senior year. He only made it to a couple meetings, but you could tell he was a special kid…and it meant a lot that he came back yesterday. Then, I walked outside and a crew of alumni were coming in…a few of them had talked and pulled out their, ‘old school’ youth ministry t-shirts, from back in the day, when we first started. I realized that a couple of them were the same age I was when I started at SJN. These young adults are so cool. Speaking of young adults, I almost completely lost it when we invited alumni to come forward and share where they were at in life. Looking at all their beautiful faces and knowing that I had the pleasure, if just for a few moments in time, to witness to their development…so cool.
|My sweet alumni|
But it didn’t stop there. I got so many hugs. From old teens and new teens. I saw some of my current young people really empower future leaders in our group. I saw the excitement in the faces of some of our ‘new 8th graders’ as they got to help out with our senior mock awards. One of the coolest moments? Chris, the new youth minister, was sitting among the teens during announcements. I had the teens drum roll and then I introduced him. The SJN teens cheered so loudly, their enthusiasm one final sign the program is in good hands and will continue stronger than it ever was. We asked a new leader in our group, Rebecca, to thank our peer leadership team. She did such a good job, speaking eloquently about Jesus in each one of the young people. Lil’ A, who was a hot mess for some of the meeting, handed out gifts with pride.
During the mock awards, the teens presented me with ‘most likely to have her skirt fall off while doing the pony dance’ (true story, fear not, I had shorts on). They gave me an awesome gift. It was so sweet. We watched a video that traced the senior’s lives through the years…and lil’ Aaron sat comfortably in my lap, enjoying the pictures. As I watched the video, I reflected on how cool it was to sit there with my son. And then it was time to share. Sharing at the last meeting is always very powerful. Teens talked of the importance of the seniors in their lives. Seniors thanked the group and spoke about the impact youth ministry had on the person they were. Alumni spoke about how youth ministry still affects their lives. More than one teen referenced the kindness and acceptance found in our program, something I have strived so hard to achieve. One teen, Hannah, made me cry as she spoke about how important the friendships were in her life. Another teen, Tyler, spoke later about how he wasted too much time being angry and Youth Ministry was a catalyst to let that go.
The sharing time was too short, it was time to end in prayer. But before, a teen asked for a standing ovation for me and I spent a second or two…with many tears, trying to let the young people know how much they have meant to me. How I came to SJN as pretty much a kid and how I am leaving with a family, as a grown up, with a stronger faith. Someone brought up that line from the office I told you guys about last week, ‘I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days, before you’ve actually left them’. We played the song, ‘seasons of love’ (yup, we are that group), and thanked God for the gift he gave us through this program. We did group pictures. First of the whole group, then the seniors, then the siblings, then the alumni. Same pictures every year. The teens I work and have worked with are beautiful…inside and out. I am putting some pictures in this blog post, I have never done that before, purposefully. But hey, what are they gonna do? Fire me? After the picture taking, and a few announcements, and a spontaneous ‘Jesus Jive’, everyone started to scatter…
And then it was time to go.
So many hugs I received, so many young people expressed thanks. They hugged tighter than before. They spoke of how much the program and I had meant in their lives. Usually, I am shoo-ing kids out the door to get home. Last night, we stayed till almost ten. A few of them went out and asked me join, I tried to rally, but throwing up in the parking lot shut that down pretty quickly. I stopped in the restaurant to tell them I couldn’t stay, it was hard to leave.
As I drove home last night, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I had personally changed during my time at SJN. I thought about how our program had grown. I thought about the amazing people are alumni are and are becoming. I thought of how many Wednesday nights I spent in the same building…three different rooms, but the same building. And, despite what I thought I would do, I cried. And felt incredibly, incredibly, blessed.