Welcome to a series of stories that basically make up my autobiography. It’s not entirely thorough, but I’ll do the best I can with the memories locked away inside my head. Could be therapeutic for me. Could be humorous for you. Either way, enjoy…
Previously on Life Story… After my first year of college, I returned home for one last, crazy adventure with a few friends from high school.
Before I move on with this story, I need to take time for a flashback. Because there’s a part of what’s coming up that will make more sense if I go back and tell a story I neglected to tell in an earlier chapter.
Sometime around my junior year of high school, the church I grew up in fell on hard times. It got bad. Families and friendships were torn apart.
Looking back, I’m not even sure why it all happened. I’m certain that the people who were the “mature” grown-ups and leaders in the church would have been able to tell you exactly what the problem was… At least from their particular point of view.
From what I can tell, it was really a case of there being three sides to the story: the left side had their opinion, the right side had their opinion, but somewhere in the middle lay the truth.
I won’t get into all that because I’m sure that any information I share about those days would be hearsay.
All you need to know is the church I grew up in split. Some people stayed. Some people left. My parents were part of the group that left.
But instead of following some of their friends who had also left the church to explore other places to worship, my folks set out on their own to find a place that they could agree was right for us as a family. I may not have understood all that went down at our home church, but I will say I am incredibly impressed by the move they made.
It would have been so easy for them to follow their friends to whatever church everyone was going to, which would have just perpetuated the “country club” mentality that I know we experienced growing up. Instead, Mom and Dad found a church where they felt we could all continue to grow, not only as a family, but in our individual walks with Christ.
So, starting out at the beginning of my senior year, we began attending and eventually joined a new church. Now, I said I was impressed with my parents’ decision. However, I had a difficult time with the move. Being the kind of kid who didn’t necessarily make friends easily, I figured I’d have a hard time getting involved with a new youth group in my last year of high school.
But I did it. And I thought our new youth minister was great.
If I’m honest, looking back, I never really considered this new church to be home for myself. Because I attended regularly for a year and then I left for college.
However, being my parents’ home church, I still had connections. And Todd, our youth minister, must have thought I was a decent human being. When he asked me to work for him as an intern throughout my first summer back from Bluefield, who was I to say no?
I think I mentioned last week, a lot of this internship involved playing ping pong and foosball in the youth room. But there was actual work involved, too. I did help Todd prepare curriculum for Sunday mornings and was even put in charge of teaching the 7th and 8th grade boys.
This is where I learned that youth ministry is definitely a calling, not just something that you do to pass the time before moving on to pastor a church.
I also got to help chaperone a mission trip that took our youth group to Jackson, Mississippi. I’m not sure I really remember what all was involved with that. I know we slept in a church for a week. I know we spent our days going door to door in various Jackson area neighborhoods. I also know that our evenings were spent in an arena where we sang praise songs and listened to a speaker preach. And I’m pretty sure Audio Adrenaline performed at one point, which was pretty awesome.
I joined the kids for SuperWeek, a youth camp held at Bridgewater College that was put together by a number of local churches in the Roanoke area. I’d been several years before as a student, with both churches I’d been a member of. But this year I was a grown-up. HA!
It was during this internship that Todd felt a calling to move away from Virginia and plant a church in Montana. So at the end of the summer, we tearfully said good-bye to Todd and his family. Then I acted as interim youth minister for a short while. Maybe I’ll get more into that later… but probably not. It’s not a very exciting tale. Unless you’re excited by me driving back and forth from Bluefield to Roanoke several times a week…
Yeah, me neither.