The hardest piece in leaving my home church will be leaving “my kids,” the students in junior high and high school who’ve welcomed me into their lives as their Bible teacher, mentor, and friend. For five years, we have lived side-by-side in a lot of ways, and in even more important ways God’s used us to improve each other.
And now I’ve been given the instruction to “go.” Where I’m going, I don’t know. Leaving might be less painful if I could say clearly that I’m going to Michigan or any other state or job or church or…something. But, I can’t say any of that. I only know that I’m stepping out in faith and obedience. And that faith and obedience offer assurance that it’s time for something different, but it doesn’t take the sting out of leaving youth ministry and my kids.
With that in mind, I wrote my kids a letter this week. And their responses have been incredibly gracious and supportive and demonstrative of how well they know me. I’m sharing the letter here so that you can see my heart. And so that, maybe, if you even have the slightest inkling to jump into the waters of youth ministry, I can encourage you to do so. It will be hard and frustrating and tiring. But, more than that, it will be fun and humbling and incredible and softening. And I guarantee it will make you a better version of yourself.
With a sad heart, but clear leading of a God, I have to tell you that my time of ministry at Calvary Baptist Church has come to an end. Effective at the end of the month, I will no longer be teaching, serving, leading, or attending at CBC.
If time were infinite, I would sit down with each of you and share with you how I came to this decision, in the hopes that could provide you with some understanding. I would tell you that being your teacher and friend over the last five years has changed me for the better, and I would tell you that because of you I will never be the same. I would tell you how truly awesome I think you are, and how proud I am to have been someone you’ve trusted.
But time isn’t infinite and I can’t sit down with each of you, so I hope you take what I’m about to say personally. I hope you own and live into it and remember when you’re adults that someone in your teenage past loved you and believed in you.
Leaving you is no easy thing. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But, God doesn’t always call us to what’s easy. In fact, I think following Him often requires us to do the hardest things, like leaving places we’re comfortable and walking into an unknown future. Truth be told, I feel exactly like that’s what I’m doing – leaving what’s comfortable to follow God into an unknown future. I feel like one of the Israelites in the passages of Exodus we’ve been reading: told to leave Egypt, promised they’d be taken somewhere good, but not given any details on where they going, how long it would take them to get there, or what would happen in between. So, what I know and what I can tell is this – I’ve been given the instruction to go, and beyond that I don’t know much else.
Except, I do know that you will be okay. In this church, you are surrounded by people who recognize how special you are, and who want to come alongside you and support and encourage you. I know that you will be taught well, and that you will have good models of godly-living to follow. I know it because that’s what Calvary has given me.
I leave Calvary believing it a church filled with good people, you the highest among them. In your youth, you are examples of what it means to be the light in the darkness that we as Christians are told to be, in your schools and workplaces, and on your sports teams and in your drama clubs and choirs. You demonstrate genuine concern for the people in your life who don’t know Jesus, and you are intentional to love them like Christ, regardless of the nasty things they may say to you. You humble yourselves to serve “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40), and treat them with the same kindness you show your best friends. And you’ve taught me to do the same, in all of these things.
Now is your time to keep shining, to come together more deeply and more genuinely than you ever have. Love each other, and enjoy each other. Be kind and be gentle, and treat each other kindly. Be peacemakers. And do good to one another.
Please know that I’m going from here praying for you, for you have been engraved on my heart. I will look back on this time with you with fondness, for this has been one of the greatest seasons of my life.
God is good!
With more love than my heart can contain,