Thursday, October 29, 2009


I mentioned a few posts ago that I want to include games as part of my youth group’s program. Although there are hundreds of awesome games, I thought I would take a moment to discuss a few of my favorites. If you want more information about any of these, let me know and I can answer your questions.

Move Your Butts: Some refer to it as “Scoot Your Boot,” some people call it “Bun Shuffle, some people have another name entirely. Regardless, I love this game as a way of allowing people to share about themselves, come out of their shells, and hopefully get a little goofy. Basically everyone has a spot in a circle (you could sit in chairs or stand on shoes or anything else as long as there are designated spots), except for one person who is in the middle of the circle. The person introduces him or herself and says something about them. For example, “My name is Mary P and I like playing ultimate Frisbee,” or “My name is Francis and I play drums.” Pretty much anything. Then everyone to whom that statement applies (ie anyone who also like Frisbee or also plays drums) will stand up and run to another open spot. You can’t sit in your own seat or the one next to you. Whoever ends up without a seat is the next one to make the statement in the middle. This game can go on for a while or only a little bit, however long you want. It works best with at least 15 people.

Human Knot: Super simple. Split into groups of 6-9 people and have each group stand in a circle. Everyone reaches out and takes someone’s hand. Make sure you don’t have both hands on with the same person. When everyone is connected, it should look like a knot of arms and hands in the middle. Once each group is ready, they all have to try to untangle themselves and get back to a circle with everyone holding hands. The thing is, you can’t let go at any point until the knot is undone. The first group to find their way out of the knot wins. This can be an ice breaker or just something to do with a bit of extra time.

Satan’s Flag: Don’t judge this one by it’s name. This game is played at nights, throughout the church (or whatever building you happen to be in), with the lights off. To begin, everyone gathers together in a certain area (we used the entrance hallway at my church) while a leader goes and hides a “flag”—perhaps a bandana or a shirt or whatever). Then each participant is given a piece of paper. Townspeople look for the flag and try not to get killed. Satan taps people on the shoulder and whispers, “You’re dead.” The Christian runs around, finds dead people, and “saves” them, bringing them back to life. When someone gets killed they die very dramatically and cannot move or talk until they get saved. Once the Christian dies no one can come back to life. If Satan kills everyone, he wins. When someone finds the flag, Satan loses. The idea is that at first no one knows who Satan and the Christian are, so you can’t trust anyone. If you have a lot of people, you can have a Secret Satan who is a townsperson at first but becomes a killer after about ten minutes (the leader would yell an announcement whenever this would take effect). You could also do a Secret Christian, who gets to save people only after he or she has been killed and brought back to life one time. This game is super fun and could go on for hours. Make sure to only use one story of the building and to have at least some small amount of lighting around anything dangerous.

Toilet Paper Hockey: exactly what it sounds like. In a large room, such as a fellowship hall or a gym, set up two plastic chairs at either end as the goal. It works well to use a tournament style, so set up some kind of round robin. Match people up and have them face off. Each person get a broom, you drop a roll of TP in between them, and the first one to get the roll between the legs of the chair wins. Sounds simple, right? Maybe even a little lame? Well things get interesting by the third or fourth game when the toilet paper has unwound itself and been pushed into bunches so that there are times when you lose the roll and can’t figure out which one you are actually playing with and which is just a pile of TP. You’ll need a whole lot of rolls. Once a roll runs out, be sure to pick up the cardboard interior to prevent too much confusion. Expect a broom to get destroyed every once in a while, too. You can keep track of winners if you want, but it is a lot of fun just for everyone to get to play.

I'll probably be throwing out another post of game ideas before too long here, so if you know of anything totally awesome for a youth group, feel free to let me know.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

“Human Vocation”

I recently read Faces of Poverty, Faces of Christ by John Kavanaugh, a philosophy professor here at SLU. It was recommended to me as a good resource in preparation for a retreat I am leading where I am presenting a talk regarding service. But toward the end I discovered this chapter (I’ve omitted a few paragraphs for the sake of brevity and relevancy):

“A vocation is a calling-forth of a person, an unfolding of a human career that starts at the earliest moments of our existence. Vocation bears the concreteness of a developing body, the stuff of genes and womb, of time and place, of family and birth. We are called out into this world, and out calling is unavoidably local: this time, this place. Now.

“A vocation is a struggle. It is the labor of becoming, of working out a mission.

“That labor, that mission is love. Paul reminds us in First Corinthians that our adulthood and the fulfillment of all our diverse gifts finds itself in love. This is the highest gift behind all natural talents and specific tasks. If there is not love, there is nothing.

“Love, then, is the core. Created by love, started by love, nurtured by love, we are only real and lasting because of love.

“Thus, a vocation is not something that merely makes us feel good, nor is it necessarily easy. Neither is life or love. For in both life and in love, vocation becomes real only through struggle, purification, and pain.

“Vocations are questioned at moments of vulnerable crisis. But crisis, that wound of choice, that terrible mark of freedom, is often the very moment of deepening life and love in us.

“That is not to say that it is impossible for a profound life choice to be shifted under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But I think it is most rare. The long labor of love in crisis is not the dying of a vocation. It may only be the final birth of it.

“Those who are basically happy in their vocations have discovered this truth.

“The only ‘highest’ vocation is love itself, resounding through all our different voices.

“We live out, by the relinquishments of our lives, a wider range of God’s love than could be imagined without us. So it is with all vocations.

“The happiest people, whether single, married, parents, priest, sister, or brother, are happy not only because they have found themselves. They are happy because they have made a singular and irreplaceable divestment.

“Having found themselves, they give themselves away.

“They have been called.”

(Kavanaugh, John F. Faces of Poverty, Faces of Christ. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991. Print.)

So much of this speaks to my attitude about my calling. Even though I spent a while running away from what I now realize is my vocation, it is obvious that God spent years laying out this path for me. There are many events that I now see as pivotal to my recent decisions, which at the time I shrugged off or interpreted in different ways.

I know that what I am doing will not be easy, nor has it been easy so far, yet when I look toward my future I am so much more hopeful and so much more happy than I had been before. I look forward to what I will be doing and I know that this is where God wants me to be.

I love how Kavanaugh talks about the “relinquishments of our lives” because this speaks so much to the transformation that occurred in my attitude and my outlook this summer. I had been clinging to this idea of being a teacher, refusing to give it up because I had just put too much work into it to turn around. But when I finally let go of my own will and placed God’s will above all else, I realized how much more fruitful and fulfilling my life would be in His hands

I don’t think I would have called being a teacher my vocation. I definitely consider my life as a youth minister my vocation.

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Youth Ministry

I think that it is only natural that as I consider my future in youth ministry, I am constantly wondering what my program will look like. I’ve seen a lot of different setups, some of which I have enjoyed more than others

Obviously what I do specifically—how things will be set up, what areas will be emphasized, etc—will depend on many things, specifically, the number of youth, the philosophy of the church, the existing structure, the denomination, the church’s resources, the preferences of the youth, and more. But there are definitely a few things I know I want to see in one form or another.

Service: Mission trips, weekly service, and even intermittent service activities have vastly altered my perception of what it mans to follow Christ and to live His love. I have learned so much about His hands, myself, society in general, and individual people through volunteer opportunities. I really think it is important for high school students to enter into service as a way of broadening their view of humanity and shaking them out of their routine, stereotyped lives. I want to do service trips every summer, and hopefully monthly service in our community, whether at a consistent site or at different sites.

Prayer: Ideally, every youth activity would begin and end in prayer. Occasionally, though, I would love to introduce the youth to different ways to pray, such as Emmaus walks, the labyrinth, praying through art, fasting, examens, and more. I see prayer as a beautiful opportunity to listen to God’s voice and to discover new things about ourselves, although in high school I didn’t really understand it and was too easily distracted and not directed enough to utilize it.

Small Prayer Groups: Prayer is obviously a huge part of Christian tradition, and I really love the idea of creating small groups of five or six youth to get together outside of the normal youth group time to talk about their lives and pray for one another. Ideally, I would one young adult from the church as a leader for each group, especially at the beginning as they get used to opening up and holding each other accountable.

Discussions: One of my youth pastors in high school used to call them “round tables” whenever we would sit in a circle and discuss some sort of specified topic rather than hearing a particular message or doing small groups. I see immense value in allowing students to share their perspectives, in giving them a chance to discover new aspects of their faith for themselves, and in solidifying the bonds between them. This could be a bit risky—topics would have to be well-chosen, I would have to have a good introduction to the discussion and some solid questions as well, and I would have to find a balance between cutting them off too quickly when things got off topic and allowing them to go too far on circular or repetitive tangents. Yet it is so important to allow them to learn from and through each other. I might do this once a month

Guest Speakers: I am a big fan of expanding horizons, of opening people up to new perspectives, new ideas, and new ways of looking at familiar things. And I recognize that I need that as well. I love the idea of bringing people in to talk to my future youth. Not only does this give them a chance to view topics in different ways, but it also helps liven things up when my own talking get mundane for the youth. This summer I gave 5 talks each week, one per day, and I know that there were times when the youth got tired of hearing my voice. I tried to give the other staff a chance to share their stories as much as possible. I remember being incredulous when if found out that I was going to be the only one presenting messages. So I would love to bring in guest speakers, whether they are church members, friends or acquaintances of mine, or well-know speakers. I like that this could help raise awareness of different issues, solidify beliefs and perspectives (hopefully not in a way that creates close-mindedness, though), and allow youth to find common ground with vastly different people. I’m not saying I would bring in someone every week, but maybe every couple of months or so.

Mini-sermons: That said, I do want to have some straight-up teachings every once in a while. In high school it was helpful to hear about my youth pastors’ experiences and to learn more about what I believed. I don’t want to bore them by just lecturing every week, but on occasion I think it is important to share what I have learned and will continue to learn.

Games: It might not be the most important thing, as far as changing hearts and lives, but I have so many great memories of playing games at youth group. They really bring people together, get them out of their comfort zones, and build community. Toilet paper hockey was a big one at my church, and I still recall the feeling of victory and the joy of watching people unable to play because they were laughing too hard. Although I don’t want such activities to be the focal point of my ministry, I know how beneficial they can be to the group as a whole.

Other aspects will undoubtedly come into play and exactly how often and in what way I implement these ideas won’t be discernable until I am actually in a church and able to feel out their perspective and their expectation. Until then, it’s fun to dream about it.

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

If I were to begin college again…

If I were to begin college again, I would do a lot of things differently. Let’s suspend reality and pretend for a minute that I knew for sure I wasn’t going to be a teacher going into college but that I still didn’t know I was called to be a youth minister. A journey into my imagination, if nothing else:

I would still decide to attend Saint Louis University and I would still be part of the Micah House program, because those were really pivotal things for me, and I wouldn’t change them.

I would, however, stick with the English major in its own, no education, and possibly a minor in theology or creative writing. I wouldn’t have to take 18 hours almost every semester, and I would be able to take classes I actually wanted to take (crazy, I know) rather than just a bunch of repetitive education courses. I would have gone farther with Spanish, something I wish I could speak even on a basic level.

I would be able to make room in my schedule to spend a semester abroad, and would hopefully go to El Salvador. I wouldn’t have to take summer classes unless I wanted to in order to be able to take more classes that genuinely interested me.

I would have had more time to get more deeply involved in something service-related without practicum and observations to worry about. I wouldn’t have to call principals every semester begging them to let me spend time every week in their schools. I would have done another extra-curricular and would have gotten to connect with more people, whether students or people I was serving.

Ceramics, guitar, piano, liberation theology, social work intro, and African-American Studies courses might have found a spot in my schedule at some point during my four years.

Sounds pretty good, right?

OK, these things aren’t life and death. I’m satisfied enough with my college decisions and I’m not angry with the way things turned out. I just wish I had had some better direction going into it, that I had realized earlier I didn’t really want to be a teacher, and that I had been able to make all those little things happen that I ended up missing out on.

Also, I trust in God’s timing. He had a plan when He waited until just before my senior year to show me His will for my life, and I am grateful for everything I learned before and everything I have learned since. It might have been easier to know from the beginning, but not nearly as educational and not nearly as challenging and therefore growth-inducing.

I might have been fumbling in the dark for a while, unsure of what I wanted to do and convincing myself I wanted a career that honestly brought me little joy. But because of this I met incredible people, learned a lot about how I view certain perspectives, and grew in innumerable ways. Sure, I wish I hadn’t been an education major, yet I really can’t imagine my life without that period, without that base. Regardless of its frustration, and even through the regret I feel over that decision, I trust that God had a plan in it.

I look back at my life and see times I have struggled and questioned His will, and though they were difficult at the time, I am continuously amazed to see how His hand was there and how those moments defined my life as it is today. It wasn’t always easy, but because of those difficult times, God has brought so much beauty and brokenness into my life. I may not be able to see it now, but I know that God has a plan in His timing.

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Oh, the memories...

Hello friends!

I just spent the weekend with Alaina, my coworker, roommate, and best friend from the summer in West Virginia. We had a great time hanging out, remembering stories, and talking about our experience together. Since I am feeling so reminiscent, and since the summer played a pivotal role in this journey toward youth ministry, I decided to just post a few pictures from my summer. Perhaps in the upcoming days I will share some more stories about my experiences with YouthWorks.

The four staff members: me, Alaina, Krista, and Adam, singing goodnight to the youth.

Singing at a nursing home, a weekly activity.

A bunch of the Kids Club kids on the steps at our housing site.

Me with some of the awesome youth I was blessed to meet this summer: Landon, Clay, Chandler, Kyle, and Eli.

There were four YouthWorks sites in WV, all within an hour and a half of each other. Here are a bunch of the staff on the Fourth of July.

Our wonderful town of Logan. "The Friendliest Town in West Virginia"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

10 Steps to Youth Ministry

I found this piece in Justice Kindness Humility, a blog with youth ministry-related posts and such. At first I thought this article was serious, and I was getting pretty angry before I realized that the whole thing is satire.

It is so convincing because for many people, this is what youth ministry is all about. You gear everything to what the youth consider cool and what a business-minded budget committee wants. A lot of youth pastors genuinely believe that some of these things are really vital and many implement these in their programs. Even if they wouldn’t state it quite so bluntly, the mentality behind some of these things is a driving force in many of today’s youth groups.

In truth, God calls us to much higher standards than these things, and I know He must be disappointed when He sees His people pointing toward a philosophy rather than pointing toward His face.

Here is the article in its entirety. It’s food for thought if nothing else:

10 Easy Steps to Guarantee a Successful Youth Ministry
By Mike Yaconelli
YWJ and Youth Specialties' late founder

1. Dumb down the gospel.
Employ attractive phrases, such as, "Since I've known Jesus, I'm happier, getting better grades and captain of the football team!" Even better, reduce the complexity of the gospel into group cheers (e.g., "Give me a J!") or simple worship choruses, such as, "God is so good…blah blah blah." Or even better, try out some hip slang (e.g., God is "phat"; Jesus is a "hottie").

2. Count.
Constantly make everyone aware of your group's attendance figures and the increases in attendance. Make numbers an issue by setting attendance goals for each activity and reward the group for reaching those goals. Spend lots of time throwing pies at the leaders if goals are reached.

3. Put your students on display.
As soon as kids become Christians, rededicate their lives or show real growth, put them in front of the group and have them share their testimonies—especially if they're physically attractive. Let young people talk about their faith as much as possible and don't worry about the fact that most young people have no clue how complicated and rough the real world is, with or without Jesus.

4. Don't allow down time.
Hey, kids today are MRV kids! Silence, solitude, prayer, meditation, fasting? All totally lame in the eyes of this generation! Nope, keep 'em busy, active, noisy and shuttling from one Christian rock concert to another. Fill every moment of your program with something to do. Otherwise, you'll lose their attention.

5. Stay on the technological cutting edge.
What would Jesus do? Are you kidding? Jesus would have the best sound system you ever heard, along with a DVD player, the Internet, instant messaging, the coolest Web site and a digital TV. Show your kids that when it comes to the latest technology, Christians are right there!

6. Create celebrities.
Make sure your young people get an earful and an eyeful of the latest Christian music stars, video stars and NFL players who profess their faith in Jesus on national television. Encourage them to worship, idolize and live under the illusion that these people are somehow better, deeper, more Christian, more together and more dedicated than they are.

7. Let youth group take the place of church.
Oh sure, encourage your kids to attend the contemporary service—even though you know most of them never will because church is "boring," filled with "dull, old people," and the music "sucks." Whatever you do, though, don't suggest that worshiping with people they don't like and connecting with people who are older and wiser just might help them when their adolescent view of the world is shattered.

8. Don't make waves.
Whatever you do, don't cause friction with parents by suggesting to their kids that grades, SAT scores, financial security, college degrees and scholarships matter. Just accept the fact that most parents want their children to attend youth group as long as it doesn't interfere with hockey, football, ice-skating, tennis, ballet or baseball practice. Furthermore, don't suggest that students resist their parents' attempts to smother the call of God on their lives. After all, you could get fired!

9. Ignore the arts.
Never encourage painting, dance, sculpture, writing, poetry, ballet or trips to the museum, symphony and opera. Stick with activities that rock! The WWF rules!

10. Live in the now.
Verify the success of your ministry by visible, measurable, observable results you can access now. Don't waste your time worrying about lasting results. Who can wait?! Go for the instant return. Hey, once your kids leave youth group, you aren't responsible for what happens to them anyway, right?

Reactions to My Calling

When I tell people about God calling me to be a youth minister, it’s interesting to see what people say. Reactions naturally vary depending on who I am telling and their experiences with youth pastors.

People told me they were proud of me. I got some enthusiastic high-fives. A few “that’s awesome”-type comments.

Multiple people have told me that they can really see me being a youth minister, that I have some great qualities for it. This is probably my favorite response.

A ton of people tell me how awesome it is that I know what I am doing. Some even seem a bit envious that my plans are now so clear. “What a great feeling!” is a common response to my excitement.

Some people really didn’t understand, and still don’t. They think of youth ministry as a stepping-stone to being an actual pastor, which is not my plan. Or they think of it as something I’m going to do in the meantime before I figure out what I really want to do with my life. Thankfully, these people are few and far-between. I don’t think I could handle it if I got a lot of these types of responses.

A couple people have asked me if I decided not to be a teacher because I wanted to be a youth minister, or if I decided to be a youth minister because I don’t want to be a teacher. The former is correct, meaning that I did not say “Crap, I don’t want to teach anymore. What am I going to do? Oh, I’ll be a youth pastor.” Rather, God called me to youth ministry which necessarily meant that being a teacher was no longer in the plans.

My best friend told me that the more he thought about it, the more right it seemed for me.

I had someone joke, “What does God sound like? What’s his ringtone?” If only you knew.

I have been amazed by the support I’ve received. It’s not every day that you tell people, “Well, my first three years of college were spent going in the wrong direction.” So it’s great when people are so encouraging.

Thank you, to those of you who have been so supportive. I love my call, but above all, I love the people who have been involved in helping me toward it and now as I work through it.

Have a fantastic day! I know I will!

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Extent: A Few Words on Disclosure

It’s interesting to me to look at how I tell people about my calling. Obviously I talk about it in different ways in different situations according to the intent and the audience. Sometimes it is pretty clear how much I should say and not say, but there are times when I am less certain about the details I should share and how much people really want to hear.

An occasional person wants to know the whole story in its entirety (if you are one of those rare few and haven’t heard yet, feel free to check out part 1 and part 2 of my story, written in early September) and that is fantastic. These people are usually the ones I am very close to, and generally I don’t just spout off the story but rather allow their questions and reactions to shape which details I emphasize and the extent to which I allow my enthusiasm to chine through.

And although I love to tell the story and hear what people say based on that, most people don’t press me quite so far. There are people who find out that I have been called and want to know some details, but not really everything. Just enough to curb their curiosity, which is fine and makes sense.

There are times when I just say that I have been called to youth ministry and that is enough. This happened with my advisor, for example. Usually when I keep it to just a sentence it is because I am telling the person for a specific purpose and a few words works to satisfy that need.

And it is not just the length and number of details regarding my calling that come into question when sharing the story. I also feel as if I need to be cautious regarding the excitement, passion, and enthusiasm I show when explaining my new life plans. Sometimes I can be practically jumping up and down, but most people tend to be a little thrown by that. Generally I can appear confident and animated, but not overly so. Sometimes I have to tone it down a whole lot so I’m not overwhelming someone. It was difficult for me to be nonchalant about it at first (once I actually got to the point where I could start telling people), but now that comes more easily.

I continue to tell new people about my calling as I enter into deeper conversations with friends I don’t see very often and as I meet new people who ask about my future when they find out I am a senior. Still, it can be a struggle to figure out just how to explain this sudden about-face in my life plans. The best I can do is just to be honest about my passion and let them determine what they want to hear.

“The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”
-Walt Whitman

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hesitancy #5-235,584

Don’t worry, I don’t really have two hundred thousand reasons to be hesitant about youth ministry. Well, if I were to stretch each one out and count each sentence as a hesitancy, maybe I would. But I won’t make you suffer through that.

So here is just a laundry list of the other things that give me pause when I think about my future:

• I’m a girl. Let’s be honest: we live in a male dominated world. If the boys are having fun, the girls will usually follow. I’m not trying to be antifeminist; I’m just saying that at this point that’s how it is. So being a girl means that guys won’t take me quite as seriously. And if guys aren’t on board, girls are less likely to jump in with both feet. So I’m supposed to be a female youth minister?

• I don’t have facial hair. What kind of youth minister doesn’t have at least a goatee?

• I’ve seen the way a few churches do things, but I really can’t envision my own ministry yet. I know some of what I want and don’t want, but the big picture isn’t there yet.

• I hate money. I do not want to work on creating and maintaining a budget. I don’t want to do fundraising and I don’t want to have to be the one to tell parents they have to foot a large part of the bill for the mission trip.

• Also, I’m not into politics at all. You can ask my family. It’s not that I will not stand my ground on important issues and it’s not that I am willing to water down Jesus’ message, but I believe that a church should avoid factions and individualism and division in general. I know it will happen. My prayer is that I can stay out of it as much as possible and that I never end up in the middle. Chances of that are slim, but I really, really, REALLY do not want to have to deal with drama and disagreement in an environment in which I am striving to build stronger relationships with Christ and with one another.

• It’s difficult to get a job when so many churches want someone with experience. So the typical question arises: how do you get experience if you need experience in the first place?

• I’m not super detail-oriented. I’m organized for the most part and can be on top of things, but if there is a choice between building relationships and doing an independent task, it’s not even a question.

• I want to get more kids into the church, but I’m not going to stoop to gags and stunts and gimmicks to bring them in. My hope is that the message, the relationships, and the love will be enough. Not to say I won’t be having fun and playing some games and such, but I want it to be about the deeper stuff, too.

• I don’t speak any other languages. Not necessarily a problem in some parts of the country, but a huge problem in border towns or urban churches in places that end in “-town” (e.i. Chinatown, Germantown) or start with “little” (little Mexico, little Italy) where culture still holds tightly to its language.

I have spent the past 5 posts telling you about why I am not qualified to be a youth minister. Fun, wasn’t it?

And now I could list for you all of the reasons why I am qualified: my skills, my attributes, my personality traits, so on and so forth. But as I am continuously discovering, I have spent too long being an arrogant college student. And what’s worse, I couldn’t even see my own pride. Therefore, I will not make you suffer through that.

Just believe me when I say that for every reason why not, there are at least two reasons why. Maybe I can’t see all of them, but I am putting my faith in God and trusting Him to lead me.

“We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen."
-Oscar Romero

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hesitancy #4: Extroversion

Welcome to the first post in October! The year is going so fast already!

We have come to one of my last main hesitancies (there are many more, but this is the last one I will look at with such depth), so let’s plow through it.

Quite a few of my friends will tell you about how I was when they met me. At first, when I’m getting to know people, I tend to be a little quiet, a little awkward, especially when I’m out of my comfort zone. It takes time for me to warm up to people.

But when I have warmed up, I tend to be really outgoing and energetic. I enjoy dancing and singing for any reason, or none at all. I can hold a solid conversation about a lot of things. I’m not afraid to be goofy when the situation allows. I’m really a gregarious person. It just takes me some time to get there.

The thing about youth ministry, though, is that I’m not sure how if that will work out very well. Being shy at first isn’t going to help me—first in the interview and then as I start connecting with the youth.

The first week at YouthWorks, for example, I was definitely not the same person as I was during week 4-8 as far as energy and enthusiasm go. I was hesitant, especially on Sunday when everyone would be arriving. But by the second week I was doing a much better job of getting to know participants and I was much less hesitant about being crazy and sociable.

Although I’m still working to get over my initial awkwardness, I am not nearly as shy as I was as a kid. And my comfort zone is continually expanding, so there are fewer situations in which I feel awkward, and I spend less time working to become outgoing in those situations. A lot of that can be contributed to my college experiences. I came to a university where I knew no one going in, and I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had.

Even with past and recent leaps toward all-around enthusiasm and conversationalism, I wonder if how well I will fair as a youth pastor. First of all, in an interview, the church is going to want someone who is engaging and passionate, so I will need to be able to overcome any shyness starting on the first day I meet these people in order to even obtain a job. And then once I have one, it is important to me that I work from the start to draw the youth out of their shells, that I am willing to be goofy as well as serious, that I can get up in front of them and laugh with them and not be afraid of their judgment of me in all my craziness.

Although this seems like something I can just force myself to get over—and in some ways I have been and can continue to do so—I still second guess my confidence and my gregariousness on occasion. For the most part, though, I know that once I am in that position, God will guide me to where I need to be, and He will give me strength for each day.

My aunt shared this with me the other day, and it completely floors me with its beauty and truth:

“Whatever God asks you to do, God enables you to be.”

So I will put my trust in Him with confidence that He is continuously refining me, polishing me, breaking and remaking me.

Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.

Today I listen
And run toward.