Friday, November 18, 2011

Seven Years Later

Seven years ago, tonight, I was finishing my first night of Ignite Junior High Ministry at South Hills Church Community.  I am pretty sure that this was the night that I just was able to sit in and watch what was taking place in our Middle School Ministry.  I remember the next week I was off for Thanksgiving and the following week it was my turn to lead; we had eight students show up and twelve leaders.  I was ready to change the world with that group of people.  

See about two months earlier I had sent in this picture to South Hills, with my resume, when I applied for the job.  Most people encouraged me NOT to send in this picture but I was convinced that I wanted to be in a place that would allow me to be who I am; and this picture captured that.  The crazy thing is how quick it happened.  Charity and I were not even married at the time but after we visited I knew we were moving to Vegas (a bittersweet event for two So Cal kids).

In the last seven years practically everything has changed in my life.  I went from being our Middle School Pastor to the Discipleship Pastor and everything in between.  When I moved out here I was not even married!  While here I have begun, and completed, my ordination with The Alliance (our denomination).  While doing that I have almost completed seminary.  I also got a few more tattoos while out here, gained a few pounds, lost my plugs and started getting a real haircut (sometimes).

In the last seven years I have learned a whole bunch but here are some things I was thinking about today that have stuck out to me:

This may seem like something weird to start off with but its so true.  When I moved out here I was so green in ministry it's not even funny.  My church was there to support me when I was ordained (here are pics to show it).  When I was getting restless in Middle School Ministry they added my responsibilities and helped me learn some more.  They supported me when I was leading mission trips, encouraged me when I taught from stage and sat me down when I messed up.  They were there when my kids were born and now are watching them grow up!  I am thankful to have had such a supportive place to do ministry.

I know I'm not supposed to write this but I am going to: ministry is tough!  I have seen students walk away from Jesus, seen adults walk away from our church and had friends who loved Jesus stopped talking to me.  I have come home from camps and wanted to quit, been on the mission field and seen hungry kids who have never had a shower and met homeless guys who seem insane.  The best part of all of this is that I had a church support me through it all because when I was growing up they never gave up on me.

When I came to South Hills I said I wanted to come somewhere and do ministry for ten years.  Now I knew the average youth pastor was only lasting for 9-18 months but I wanted to change that.  I have been fortunate to have some great pastors in my life who modeled longevity in ministry and they encouraged me to do the same.  I guess you could say that longevity has been breed into my ministry DNA.  That helped me commit when times got tough.  Now I can look back on students I met in the seventh grade who I am doing ministry alongside.  I have families that I am the only youth pastor their kids knew!  Longevity matters for influence, character and people know when I mess up I am not leaving because I have a church that has watched me grow up.

South Hills Church, I really want to thank you for everything and everyone over the last seven years.  I could not imagine where I would be without you.  It has been a privilege to serve here.  I came alone but have been so blessed out here in the desert! 

1 comment:

Barb C said...

Congratulations, Neil. You have done so well..continue your growth and spreading the love of Jesus in your words and in your actions, and even in your craziness!! God Bless