I have been thinking lately about how influential our students are, they have Church and Youth Group, but are very much immersed in “the world” in their High Schools, sports teams and jobs. I find it can be easy to forget what life is like out there because in reality, the longer you are a Pastor, the more your circle of influence can become Church people. I had an eye-opening reminder of this last summer when I was working on camper follow-ups for a large local summer camp.
Each week through the summer, the Camp would send us a list of campers who made decisions for Christ, or showed interest in being a part of a Youth Group when they got home. Our agreement was that we would follow up with them, inviting them to our group, the task seemed simple, until I realized that I was going to receive 40 names a week for 8 weeks! I accepted the challenge and made a point of contacting student, via phone, email, mail and Facebook the latter of which was my biggest mistake.
One of the students on the list was a guy that I could not get a hold of on the phone and when I looked him up on Facebook, he had 40 friends already involved in our group, so I sent him this message on Facebook.
Hey Nathan, you are probably wondering why I am sending you a message on Facebook – I am the Youth Pastor at Peace Portal Alliance Church and I heard some great news about your experience at Camp ****** last week. I tried the phone number that your camp gave me but it didn’t work so I am messaging you’re here.
What I was wondering is if you would like to get together at McDonalds for a Coke one day this week. It would be great to get to know you, and just so you know 31 of your friends are already attending our Youth Group if you look at our friends in common.
Take care Nathan; I am looking forward to meeting you.
Pastor Geoff Stewart
It took 3 days to hear back, but who I heard from was his parents who were fuming that an adult would message their son and “solicit” a meeting with him. They felt it was inappropriate and asked that we never contact their son again and blocked me on FB.
Being accused of being a predator was really tough to deal with, but it reminded me that being called as a Youth Pastor and wanting to invest in the lives of teenagers, is really strange in the eyes of people who are not in the bubble. But we need to remember the culture we are trying to work in and what may seem normal to us, might be strange or worse offensive in the eyes of some despite our best intentions.
Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.