I need to give you a little background. I didn’t always want to be where I am now. In fact, I had always dreamed of becoming a leader in children’s ministry, not student ministry. Even at 16 years old, I wanted to become a children’s ministry expert. I grew up in children’s ministry, learned the “in’s and out’s” from my expert parents, and honestly thought I’d land in a church somewhere (or the one I grew up in) working with kids and forging the path ahead toward creating one of the most dynamic children’s ministry programs ever. Until everything changed. God began closing doors for me that I didn’t asked to have closed. He changed my direction and ultimately changed my heart altogether. Sometimes when God changes hearts, we have to walk through the difficult places and it was in the middle of that difficult place that I gained an entirely new perspective. When doors close it sometimes feels a little bit like a death. That thing that I loved so much was no longer a part of my life and instead of getting stuck right there, grieving over that closed door, I needed to see that God was moving me, stretching me, and helping me step into the places where he had planned and purposed for me to be.
I love children. I love being with kids and acting like a (big) kid. I love the innocence, the spontaneity, the simplicity. I truly miss the days when I had opportunities to lead kid-centered events at our church like cooking classes, lock-ins, movie nights, spa days, VBS, themed Sundays, Easter celebrations, and every other fun thing we did to disciple kids and include families in worship. I miss it deeply, BUT I’ve moved on to a new adventure and honestly, I AM IN LOVE.
It has taken me about a year and a half to realize this and find my place in it, but student ministry is so fun, so challenging, and so rewarding. Anyone that works with high school and college age students knows what a completely different world it is. There’s a lot of late nights, deep conversations (some not always easy), drama (to try) to avoid, heartbreaks, homework, and busy schedules. But there’s also lots of fun adventures, food (most of which is so unhealthy its ridiculous), celebrations (for every occasion!), and laughter until you cry or wet your pants. To put my experience into story form would be difficult so I’ll just make a list. Here’s how student ministry is changing my life and why I’m so in love with it.
1. Available space + Available kids = TONS OF FUN. My home is becoming exactly what I dreamed it would be. I love that these students come to visit and stay late. I love that they are comfortable making music on the piano and helping themselves to the snacks on the counter or the fridge. I love that they do cheer stunts in my front yard and aren’t afraid to parallel park 2 blocks away, just to hang out (and they’re good at it!).
2. I realize that student ministry is changing me from the inside out. They make me feel more alive in every way. From chats with the girls over dinner, to hosting 20+ girls for a sleepover, to beach trips, St. Augustine adventures, and camp, I’m becoming a better me. I’m less “program” oriented and more “people” oriented. Fitting in is less important and being who I am is most important. I’m learning to have fun and laugh often….very often. In spite of the exhaustion at times, I love being with these people. I love the songs, the dances, the talks, the nicknames, the laughs, and even the totally random pictures they seem to capture of me because they think its just funny (and it is.). In spite of the vulnerability I feel at times, I realize that there’s no better me than the me I’m becoming with them.
3. Friends come in all shapes and sizes. Since stepping into the world of student ministry, I’ve made more friends than I can count. I mean this when I say, that I would do anything for those students. And honestly, I don’t just consider them “students,” they’re truly some of my very best friends. I love that I can call, or text them and say, “How’s it goin’?” Or, with all sincerity (and love) say, “What are you thinking?” That’s student ministry. It’s messy. It’s real-life, but truly, my ability to be real with these people brings us closer together.
4. I get to be a big kid and it is seriously so much fun. Those things I loved about children’s ministry somehow found their way back to me. There’s a time to be grown up and act like an adult, but there’s also a need for adults to be approachable and not so “rigid” to the point that students take you seriously all the time. I love that I can cut up with these people. I love that I can laugh at them and the weirdly hilarious things they do yet, they can turn things right around and laugh at me as well.
5. Here’s the truth: I realize that these moments won’t last forever. This closeness may subside and life will inevitably move on. These students won’t be students forever and I won’t be in this season for always. One day, they won’t be a part of our ministry like they are today because they’ll grow up, go off to college, and begin taking their own paths away from this place and each other. I don’t know just how long I have to enjoy what we have now, but I am certain I will cherish it always. I don’t know when this piece of the journey will end, but I do know that life is full and oh so sweet in these moments. I’m so honored to walk alongside them in this season and I believe without a doubt that God knows just who we need and when we need them. So, I pray that someday, when my own journey has taken me from these sweet moments, I’ll be able to look back and remember who I became because of them and why it is that I fell in love with student ministry.