We began youth ministry when we were in our early twenties. With a few years of marriage under our belt, we were looking forward to “changing our city” and “loving youth to Jesus.” We led through having all three of our babies, Aaron going back to school and starting his career, and three moves. We were crazy busy, stressed, worn thin at times as all our hours were volunteer, but there’s no way I’d change my decision to lead youth.

I went into ministry with thoughts of all I would bring and change and do. I left ministry with a deep gratitude for all I received. It’s been two years since we’ve led a youth group, and it still feels weird. I feel lost without a band of teens in my life that I’m actively pouring my time and energy into. It feels empty to not have a service or worship set we are planning every week. It feels sad to think my babies won’t remember those precious nights at youth group, how they thought every teenager was automatically their best friend.

I feel so grateful for all my youth did for me. They loved my family; hugged and cared for my kids. They asked me how I was doing and expected real answers from me. They cried with me and laughed with me. They held each other with tenderness and love, continually surprising me with their generosity. We shared some sacred spaces together. Worship nights, youth camps, disappointments and accomplishments.

I learned a lot. I learned to receive and ask for help. I learned to listen and be heard. I learned to lead while respecting others and I learned to go first in being vulnerable. I learned that offering friendship is the scariest and most meaningful thing I can offer.

I can see now that “my” ministry to the youth was less about what I had to offer, or what I knew, and more about living life together. The lifelong journey of learning and growing together. We all have something to offer, we all have something to learn. Thank God, I don’t have to have it all figured out and thank God he gave me a youth group to help me learn that.

Melissa Lee
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