So, youth camp is over, and it was the craziest 4 days. I'm not sure writing a post about it after being on #TeamNoSleep for that long is my wisest choice, but here we are.
I haven't been involved with youth at church since a little over two years ago. Which was a super tough decision to make. Since I ended my Senior year of high school (ahem, t e n years ago...) I've played some kind of role in youth ministry constantly. Until I decided I had to stop.
I've written about my first year teaching, but it's really difficult to put into words how hard it was for me to be teaching students, and struggling with it, and then working with students in our youth ministry in a different capacity. I found myself struggling hard in both places because I didn't know how to be "Teacher Me" and how to be "Super Fun Jesus Party Me." I'm so sure that there are people who do this seamlessly from the beginning, but I'm just not one of them. So, I took a step back from youth ministry. Which was heartbreaking.
It was tough having 8 years worth of youth ministry experience, and feeling like there wasn't a way to continue it, or use it anymore. (I will say here that there may have been a way to continue doing both--I just super couldn't figure it out, and felt at the time like everyone involved wasn't getting everything they could out of it.)
Then, Jesus did this really cool thing over time, where he truly helped me work out what it means for me to minister to my students at school, to teach them, obviously, but to do it without feeling like I had to be this version of myself that had very little to do with my actual personality. When I realized that all that time ministering to students wasn't independent of what he was trying to do through me in my job, it was like this weight lifted off of me. I still miss youth ministry--there is truly nothing like it, but the way that things have continued to play out in the time since I stopped leading in our youth ministry was certainly on purpose, and has been so sweet to be a part of.
Which, brings me to this last week. I got asked to help lead a group during camp this year, and I jumped at the opportunity to do it. And I was. So. Nervous. Not because I don't think I know how to interact with students, because, duh. But because it brings me back into this context where I struggled so hard balancing the two parts of myself the last time I was involved. And let me tell you. The struggle has been real, but not in the relational way that I was initially nervous about. The kids were fantastic, and I was SO pumped that several of my next-year-students came and had a blast in their groups. But God is so stinking good, and once again overwhelmed me with that goodness in one really specific way:
I get to see several of my (now former) students at church every weekend, which is super fun for me, and it's a blast when they bring up a weekend service, or some church event that's coming up, to me at school and we get super pumped talking about it. I have been praying for those kids specifically, all of them, of course, but the ones who attend my church, specifically to be moved by what we are hearing about Jesus every weekend, to get involved in the youth ministry, and start a takeover at our school. That's the dream. So, imagine my excitement when one of my students from this last year signed up for camp & I got to see her with her group: serving, learning, and worshipping. Seriously. Overwhelmingly grateful for that experience. BUT THEN something even more amazing happened. On Friday night during worship, I was standing and caught eyes with this student; she walked back over to where I was, stood next to me, and we got to worship Jesus side-by-side.
I hope the significance of that isn't lost on you.
I was just overcome with joy at the gift that was that experience. Getting to stand next to this student, who came to camp without any of her friends, struggled brilliantly with learning to call me by my first name, and then sought me out to be able to worship together. It was just too much.
God is so faithful, and I know that sounds played out, but dang. I never could have imagined the gift that he was preparing me for. If stepping away from my role in youth ministry for that season was just so that I could get a tiny glimpse at what heaven will be like, standing next to my sweet students, worshipping the God who put that opportunity into motion, who knew that would happen when I was heartbroken at what I thought was the end of my time doing ministry--if it was all for that one moment on Friday night: totally worth it. Man. So good.
All that to say, it was a good weekend. God used me, in some tiny way, to impact the lives of some super legit incoming 8th graders, gifted me with just the most amazing experience alongside a former student, and showed me that he does, in fact, use even me for his glory. He's developed things in me in this time away from youth ministry that I think he wants to use there, and I'm pumped for whatever that might mean.
It's been a good week.