Being a “Youth specialties minister” @ 20 in an under-served community in Tucson, I remember an event that made me think that maybe I was too young to try and help these young kids. Not just in age, but in spiritual maturity.
This event took place on a Saturday, just like any other Saturday at “the Sal.”
Meet Markel. An unspoken leader out of many teenagers who would come to the community center every day to play basketball. A boy who I felt I connected with moreso than any of the other kids, and although there was definitely a lack of “street experience” on my part, there was a certain level of respect that was given when trying to maintain a level of control in the center. I was a part of a place that was safe, so he respected that and he helped maintain the control.
Markels mom died, and he was in the gym not even 2 hours after she passed.
I was not experienced in any way, shape or form on how to handle a situation like this. Not only could I not comprehend the pain he was going through, but I couldn’t even begin to think why “The Sal” would be his refuge of preference. What DID I do?
I was completely silent. I couldn’t even blurt out a “How are you?” I just stood there, feeding him his change as he shot free-throws.
That season of my life, I slowly started disconnecting from engaging in that community, and around that same time I had broken off a relationship that was a little over a year old, which included a dumped engagement (story at a later time).
I didn’t trust myself. I didn’t trust hardly anybody.
I remember thinking, how and why was I in that position in the first place? How was I supposed to help in this community if I couldn’t even relate to this one kid?
This is what I took from that experience:
1) I was way to young and immature to try and deal with the Sin that was flooding the immediate community around that church, which included drugs, prostitution, addictions of all sorts, and much, much more.
2) As much as I want to, as much as anybody wants to, we can’t help with all of the problems in the world, not even in one community, but we can and will reach at least 1.
3) I HAD to leave, to protect my soul, but I didn’t know it at the time. I just had an overwhelming feeling of needing to remove myself. From THAT ministry, and from THAT town. I wasn’t giving up, I was letting go of what I knew I could not do… yet.
I wasn’t too young to learn that I was not ready, and I wasn’t too young to learn and know that I was becoming weary, and I needed to wait for the proper time. Galations 6:9
Do I regret it? Not one bit. After all, I moved to Phoenix and shortly after met my wife.
Markel? I really don’t know what he’s doing now and it makes me sad, but I will take what he taught me and use it in future ministry positions, and opportunities. Like now, I get to be a part of an amazing church and volunteer in the middle school environment called “Transit.” I may not be able to connect and reach every single one of them on an individual basis, but I know I can and will reach at least 1. I will “do for one, what I wish I could do for everyone.”
One thing that gets me is why do some churches place these young, and sometimes spiritually immature “leaders” in these types of positions? Is it to “relate” with the youth better? Does that do more harm, than good?
As the Pastor, and/or person hiring or selecting the person for that position, what kinds of traits would you be looking for in your Youth Minister? Does your organization offer proper tools so that you are prepared to hire the right person? Do you have a team in helping make these decisions?
As a member or church-goer, what are you going to do to help that One?