mcdonalds

The Scene: Working on the laptop at McDonald’s. A table full of pre-teen guys are trying to eat. The oldest (perhaps a freshman among them) is acting like a social rooster, pecking down the awkwardness of the younger guys, strutting for the girls sitting nearby, nudging the smallest one of out of the booth with his rear end… over and over.

I’ve been praying for several minutes about the best way to respond.

And then…

the others all suddenly had to leave. They hopped on bikes and peddled out. He looked like he was waiting for a ride – it was just him and I. I didn’t move toward him, but stood up while holding my drink and spoke.

Me: (slurp) “So, are you the oldest?”

Him: (a bit startled that I’m talking to him) “Huh? Oh, yeah.” (he smiles… like a security blanket… I’m “bigger than he is.”)

Me: “They look up to you, you know.”

Him: (he pauses, as if to realize it) “Oh, yeah. I guess.”

Me: (a half-step slower this time) “They look up to you.”

Him: (he catches my eye) “Yeah.”

Me: “Use that wisely.”

Him: (another pause) “Yeah…” (another pause) “…yeah.”

I go to get a refill, and return. A couple minutes later he heads out to catch his ride.

As he passes, he says, “Hey, see ya!”

—-

Changing the world? Speaking Life into life? Serving students?

Maybe it happens just like this.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5)

I am in youth ministry because of one conversation.

OK, that isnt’ entirely true – I’m in youth ministry because of a myriad of things: being raised well by godly parents, shaping moments throughout my childhood by amazing Christian men and women, seeing the need for leadership and love in the life of a teenager, my own specific passion and shape.

But I do remember one specific conversation with a guy name Jerry. Jerry was the Dean of Men at the Bible College I went to and 1 of 2 very influential men at that school for me (the other being the football coach and Bible teacher, Terry). One day, Jerry said to me – “Why are you going into business, you were made to be a youth pastor? I can totally see it in every aspect of your life and heart.” Then he laighted a little, shrugged and moved on. But I couldn’t shrug off our conversation – it stuck with me and I began to wrestle, pray and get council about this possible direction for my life. Sounds a little more dramatic than it actually was honestly, but 20 years later, I’m still in youth ministry and loving it.

All that to say this: every year I make it a point to ask God to help me interact with a couple students who need to be “called to youth ministry.” I look in our ministry or try to be discerning at an event and talk to a teenager who has the potential to do incredible things as a youth worker. Sometimes it has been spot on and that person is now in youth ministry. Sometimes I’ve missed them altogether and a kid I never expected to be a youth pastor enters the field. Sometimes it is an epic fail and that person leaves the church altogether.

But my win/loss record isn’t what is important – it is the conversation that counts!

JG