This is a difficult one for me to write. But I realize in the past five years God has really shaped me and taught me a lot. When I started my journey in youth ministry I was young and thought I could do it all. I thought I was the best one to do it all – I was cynical of adults in the church because I had been hurt in the past from adults who hindered my spiritual growth and turned my unsaved friends away from Jesus. I came with a preconceived notion that a lot of adults wanted middle schoolers to be something they could never be: grown up Christians. I let parents view me as an intern who was way better at investing in middle schoolers than they could ever be. Even when I moved from intern to Director of Middle School I didn’t really build a team but tried to carry it myself. It came back to bite me – I never wanted to be central of the show. And at times I hate that its really easy for me to converse and build relationships with middle schoolers. But I’m learning.
#1 – I’m sorry to parents who I let down – who I didn’t partner with but tried to steal your role
Some of this was fear that without me your child wouldn’t know Jesus. The reality is that is not mine to bear – nor yours. They are their own being. However, we are each responsible for the time given to us. You are the most valuable influence in your child’s life. Sending them to church, church camp, or small group pales in comparison to what you do at home. I am sorry it took me so long to realize this. And I hope you are challenged and encouraged knowing you are the most important influence. Pray with your child. Discuss doubts, fears, questions about faith with your child. Love them with an unrelenting, unconditional love.
#2 – I’m sorry for fearing those who complained about unchurched students
I don’t know why but a lot of doors opened in the community. And conversations began with students who had no influence at home speaking the truth of Jesus into their life. It is a struggle, knowing that this child won’t have the chance for a parent to pray for them, to walk with them in their relationship with Christ. If our team shrugs responsibility for these students, we make light the reality of the Gospel and the weight of making Jesus known to the unchurched, unsaved in Stark County. Spending time with a student who has never been loved by someone who knows True Love does sometimes trump spending time with a student whose entire family knows the hope of Jesus.
#3 – I’m sorry for not trusting God or my church
These past five years have been a rocky journey. At moments – I will admit – I was shaken. I spent nearly a year in tears, questioning God, questioning my church. I felt hurt, betrayed, and wondered why God would allow this to happen. And yet – I had a clear response every night. God wasn’t through. I wasn’t a failure as much as I felt like one. As much as the words I heard through the grapevine being said about me made me feel unloved and as though all my effort was meaningless. I tried to please everyone and it seemed I couldn’t please anyone. But I realize my trust in God for so long was based on circumstance – in spite of what I preached and talked about. I was a cynic instead of having childlike faith.
I am so grateful God never abandoned me, that I never gave up on what He was calling me to. I made a lot of mistakes – I was stupid at times. But I am so grateful for a loving church and community in North Canton, Ohio and for the amazing leadership who continued to invest in me despite my age, short experience, and mistakes.