Letter from Student

Today I received a letter from a student of mine that graduated just a few short years ago. It is one of those letters that all youth pastors hope for, but seldom receive. It is the kind of letter that I look at and tell myself....it's all worth it. It's a letter that serves as a reward of sorts for the time spent investing in the lives of students.

I share the letter, with her permission, hoping it will encourage all that work with students. It is my hope that God will use it to do two things. One, encourage. I hope that it will be an encouragement to you to keep doing what you are doing. It is a real reminder that we don't always reap in the same season that we sow. It's a reminder that our words and actions do get through, even when we are tempted to think that they are not.

Second, may it serve to remind you of the importance of longevity in ministry. Real discipleship does not happen over night. Life may be full of quick answers, and fast service, but ministry is an area that is not quick and can not be hurried. It requires faithful commitment and steadfastness.

Here is what she wrote.

The youth group that I was involved with in high school is what started the process of taking my faith seriously and making it my own. I was really ridiculous in high school; drama followed me every Sunday and Wednesday night. My youth pastor and his intern never gave up on me or told me to leave though. I relied a lot, in a good way, on the intern and his family, even now. His mom was a youth leader for a short time and very involved in the church, so we still saw her around regularly. We girls loved going to her house to help her with chores or just talk about life women to women.

The leaders were not as permanent as the youth pastor and intern who took over as youth pastor my senior year. College students came and went every few months as helpers and Bible study leaders. After a while, I got tired of starting over with someone new and having to open up and repeat my life story to so many new leaders, so I just stopped talking to them the latter half of high school. I am aware that it was my own choice to close my self off to new relationships. I think my life would have been a lot different if there had been a female leader who stayed with me all four years; someone whose mistakes I could learn from, who I could pattern my life after and who invested their personal time in me on a regular basis.

Honesty was always a part of the youth group staff. During the "talk" portion of our Wednesday night meetings, the staff were not afraid to be open and talk about subjects they knew we were dealing with at home or school or work. I always liked the talks about real-life better than a Bible lesson. One time a speaker from the local Crisis Pregnancy Center was brought into talk to us very bluntly about sex. I really appreciated her frankness in answering our questions and appropriately sharing her own experiences in that area. Junior year I remember the intern pastor sharing about his past struggle with porn. That totally blew my mind because I thought everyone who worked at a church was perfect. At first, I was mad that he shattered my image of him, but it led to me being ale to hear other people's struggles in a less judgmental way and realize that just because one is involved in ministry does not make them any less susceptible to sin.

I am very thankful for the different ministry situations we as students were given to participate in. High school is where a lot of my passion for things, especially ministry wise started. For two summers, I went to Mexico on the typical mission trip that almost every Oregon teen goes on. During high school we were in our community a lot doing retirement home visits, our church's homeless outreach, game times to invite our unchurched friends to, the 30 Hour Famine, and odd jobs for people who lived near the church. At the time, I did not see any point for my involvement in these activities, but now I see that each occasion was another small piece of the puzzle that is coming together as a passion for cross cultural missions and being less judgmental of people.

I would be a very different person if people at church had written me off as someone who would never change. Since last year, I have worked with older elementary and middle school students. Already, I see girls who are a replica of me at that age. Because of my personality in high school, their rude behavior does not offend me me and I can relate to them on a more personal level. Having so many leaders cycle through my youth group has shown me the importance of long-term investment in young people's lives and makes me want to be a youth leader when I am done with

May we never forget the impact we have on the lives of people. May we remain faithful to the call that he has placed on each of our lives.


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