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.
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:
MY CHURCH WATCHED ME GROW UP
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.
MINISTRY IS TOUGH
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!