Today began my tenth year as a Youth Ministry volunteer at my parish. It all began when my son Jonathan was a junior in high school and a new Youth Minister arrived on the seen looking to change things up. Brian K. wanted the kids to feel more welcome each Sunday and felt that a home cooked meal was one way to make that happen. Even teenagers get tired of pizza.
I was happy to help. I knew how to cook for large groups of people being that my extended family is 40 plus people. I spent the next five years cooking for 50 plus kids every Sunday night. I stayed even after Jonathan graduated from high school I loved it so much.
Jerry and I had a deal. He happily stayed home and watched John Wayne movies with Courtney, as long as I brought home the left overs. I kept my end of the bargain and peace reigned supreme in our home. I got to cook for the kids, answering a need for my parish myself by getting out of the house for a bit, and Jerry got special time with Miss Courtney. Another bonus for me was that I didn’t have to re-watch those John Wayne movies I had already seen a billion and a half times.
It was a win-win.
Jerry joined me in Youth Ministry five years in and we have been serving together ever since. Teenagers keep us young. They are funny and bright. They desire an authentic relationship with Christ and it’s an absolute honor to walk that journey alongside them. I’m no longer in the kitchen every weekend but I still bake huge batches of cookies and brownies when asked.
Two years ago we added a new ministry in becoming Catechists for Confirmation. We have walked one class through the two year process and will begin with the next one this week. What a privilege it is to be a teeny tiny part of a young person’s spiritual journey to learning who they are in Christ. To watch them learn and grow is so inspiring to me and it keeps me motivated to keep going back time and time again no matter the obstacles. And their young inquisitive minds ask penetrating questions like: “So Mrs. Lenaburg, is the Trinity just like a hive mind?”
With junior high and high school kids there are always obstacles. One of the biggest lessons I have learned during this time in ministry is that it cannot be about me. Ever. If I show up one evening needing acknowledgment or accolades, then I need to step away. I have learned to prepare myself for each encounter/class by praying for God’s wisdom and perseverance to meet whatever need is presented. I rely on Him completely to give me the words to encourage and teach. I cannot do what God is asking me to do without Him walking beside me every step of the way.
Ministry is about serving with a humble heart, serving God and Him alone. It’s about the people you are serving and allowing God to work through you to meet the needs revealed.
Ministry is about loving the people God puts in your path, meeting them where they are and accompanying them along their journey, encouraging them to seek Him with every step they take knowing they are not alone. It was really fun to watch all the young ladies perk up when we explained to them why marriage is a covenant, not a contract. And of Jerry why turkey bacon is an abomination against God’s wholesome creation.
And yes, sometimes Ministry is about getting shot in your very tender behind by a paintball. That’s right people, I did paintball for Jesus with my teens and they loved every minute. I will do just about anything to spread the Gospel, even become a big target so my team can win. And yes, there was Advil the next day. With prayer, always with prayer.
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