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Happy Trails To You: Youth Ministry 2012

We spent Christmas in Colorado this year. Going from sea level to 1,100 feet can do wondrous things to a persons lung capacity, skin, and overall balance and coordination. Generally, I’m in good shape, have balanced skin, and can walk without falling. These things don’t exist in the mountains. Kamikaze walker who needs an oxygen tank is my M.O. Nevertheless, the breathtaking view of the snow laced through the Rockies makes up for all of that, right?

Our trip started out with our four year old puking repeatedly on our flight from Tampa to Denver. It came out of nowhere. And it didn’t stop for hours. I think she threw up about every twenty minutes, on us and various people in our paths–we became THOSE PEOPLE.

Next, we had the switchback laden drive up the mountain in a rental car…when this momma prayed every minute that our smallest and most recently potty trained would be able to “hold it” and our biggest and most recently sick would be able to “hold it” until we got there.

It was a team effort, my husband and I took turns cleaning, driving, running, wiping, apologizing, tipping, carrying, and complaining. But at the end of the day I felt nothing less than accomplished and strengthened. We did it. We made it to our winter wonderland retreat with God’s help and a lot of antibacterial wipes.

I can relate on a ministry level. In some seasons, I feel like there are obstacles at every turn and I can barely keep up with the mess. There are moments, just as we are gaining momentum, that we get a punch in the gut with some unforeseen turn of events. Not to mention, the “oops” that was all our fault, the student who took their life after school, the argument that holds co-workers in tension, the project that didn’t go as planned, the van with the broken AC/ Heater/ (fill in the blank), the doldrums of accounting–credit card receipts–and fundraisers…need I say more?

This is why we need each other. This is why I sacrifice some time each year away from my ministry and family to spend time with other people who have ministry cred…who are doing what I’m doing–and can smell EXACTLY what I’m stepping in.

Last week, while running with a group of girls, I stepped in some doo. The moment it happened–fresh “pile” smell wafted and simultaneous apologies erupted from those near me. Why were they sorry? Because they’ve stepped in it too, sometime in their life they have experienced that retching feeling as one scrapes purina poo off of a shoe with a stick. They can have empathy in ways that only people who’ve stepped in the stuff can have.

We have memories in ministry that can support each other if we are walking closely enough to smell the pain, problems, and panics. We can cheer each other on when we are paying attention to our friends in ministry who are experiencing great joy, answered prayer, and freakishly fun times.

It’s time for some of us to pack up. And by pack, I don’t mean move. I mean gather together and go for the ride of our lives.

I’m a nostalgic person. If you’re not, please forgive quickly and hang with me. I envision youth ministry in the next decade as a trail ride. Where all of us do what my husband and I did on our trip to Colorado. We work and persist together. We live cheering each other on. We find ourselves enjoying the thrills of breakneck pace. We slow, being present in the moments when we don’t have words to describe what we’re feeling. We devote, sharing times of leisure, rest, and restoration. Our arms open, giving each other a break. We ride, taking the lead to let others draft. We uplift, falling back to let others lead. We play, singing songs that make us happy, singing songs that share the story of a God who went on a great adventure to give us life in His Son.

If you can’t imagine what this looks like, maybe it’ll look a lot like an old Roy Rogers movie?

I want this for our ministries and for our lives. We want to be front porch people in all ares of our lives, including those places where we share ministry with others. We want to be accessible, inclusive, helpers on the way. It’s a great adventure to ride together through the good spots and the bad, rounding up and pointing up.

My friend and Cartel brother Adam blogged about something similar, something we desire for our house and our lives together. He put it in great words:

This year will be different. We will be social. We will be a front porch type of neighbor. We will not just have our little circle of friends chosen by a shared hobby or faith. Instead we will choose to be different. Our relationships will be defined by proximity, not affinity. We recognize that Jesus told us to love our neighbor and we will stop trying to redefine the word neighbor to fit our comfort level. And we recognize that Jesus has us living where we live for His purpose and not our own.
2012 will be known as the year of being Good News in our Neighborhood.

As we ride on this trail of youth ministry, may we not be blinded by it. May we love others recklessly, until it hurts, together. Because when we reach the top of the mountain we’ll be able to say with joy written all over our faces that we did it! And we did it together. Hang on. This journey is going to be great.

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