Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Top 10 for my 10 Year Anniversary

Yes I know it is hard to believe but March marks my 10th year as the Director of Youth Ministries for St. Mark's UMC!  It's hard to believe that it has been 10 years because I can still remember my interview process when I came in for the formal interview.  I was met by Glen and Lauren.  We sat in Ben's office and I talked about role playing games (like D & D) with Lauren and of course Glen and I talked about football.  Who would of known then how much of an impact those two would have on me over the course of my time at St. Mark's. 

I have been working with youth for the past 16 years of my life.  I have to give full credit to Lynn Beuter at the YMCA for seeing the potential in me and moving me to the Teen Director all those years ago!  Thank you Lynn!!!!

I thought to Celebrate I would throw out a Random Top 10 Moments / Things I Cherish / Youth - People that have made my time here at St. Mark's so special!

10.  All the Youth: I have been blessed to have been impacted by some many amazing youth that have stepped into my life.  Through out all my years here, I have been blown away by the amazing things that my youth have done.  From 1st Sundays, to leading sessions on retreats, to making Pilgrimage an amazing trip, to just coming by and hanging out in my office.  I have learned more from the youth over these past 10 years than I learned through out the other 30 years of my life.  Thank you for making every day different, fun, and an amazing experience.

9.  Pilgrimage:  I have gone to the last 11 Pilgrimages.  Pilgrimage is this amazing event held every November where over 5000 youth from all over the state come together to sing, dance, prayer together, give testimonies, and listen to speakers.  If you ask our youth what is the most meaning trip or event that they go on where they feel God at work in their lives, it is Pilgrimage! Our youth love it and so do our mentors.  We are all blessed to be together for that trip every November!

8. Funny things that have happened:  From the "Eric did you fart in here?" to Josh falling out of a swing, to to Dr. Sausage, to the Youth Director blues,  to the many many videos "backpack buddies" that we have made over the years, we have been blessed with the gift of laughter.  Laughter is such an important part of life and especially mine because I love to laugh.  Ask any youth and they will tell you that I love to laugh and to make other people laugh. Laughter is the best medicine!

7. Senior Sunday:  Senior Sunday is the Sunday each year where we celebrate the youth that are graduating High School.  Each year one of them as well as myself deliver the message in church.  I love that opportunity and I love to watch our seniors say goodbye to everyone by being in front of the congregation.  I enjoy every moment of Senior Sunday except for the actual goodbye!  I can't stand it when youth graduate, that is really hard on me! No matter how hard I try they just don't want to seem to fail their senior year and stay here with me for another year.

6. This Blog:  I started this blog a couple of years ago to help me on a weight loss journey.  It has become a place where I can share stories and devotions based on my experiences here at St. Mark's.  I have been able to write about specific youth as well as mentors and other church members.  I really enjoy writing. This has been a big part of my Spiritual journey over the past few years. 

5.  First Sunday / F4J:  We started a program awhile back called Friday's for Jesus which later morphed into First Sunday.  First Sunday is where we have our own worship service at Youth Group led entirely by the youth.  They lead every aspect of the service from choosing the songs, to writing the testimony and message.  It has been amazing to hear what they have to share and to watch them grow more and more comfortable in front of the group.  I am a firm believer in giving our youth ownership of the program because when they have ownership, they will make it their own!  This also gives them a chance to practice public speaking which I believe is very important!

4. Mentors: We have an AMAZING group of mentors that help with the youth programming here at church.  I have been so blessed since I got here to have these mentors that help with everything we do.  I could not do my job without them.  Our current group of mentors are not just mentors for the youth but they are mentors for me too.  They bring so much to the table and I am not only blessed to call them mentors, I am blessed to call them my very best friends!

3. ASP: Every year I complain about Appalachia Service Project (Our summer mission project) because of all the work I have to do to get ready and worrying about making sure we have enough money to go, but I wouldn't change going to ASP for anything in the world.  I have been to ASP for 12 straight summers.  Each summer I get to watch our youth grow up in ways you can't even imagine. From learning how to use tools to forming relationships with each other as well as families that we work with on our trips.  ASP is where our youth really start to grow up right before our eyes.  There is so much more to this trip than just the construction work that is done to the houses.

2. Adult Youth:  Over the year's some youth have kept in contact with me and have become very close friends of mine after they graduated the youth program.  Philip is one of those youth who not only is a close friend but also came back as a mentor and works hand in hand with me and the Youth Leadership team.  He is definitely my Partner in Crime whenever I have Duke vs. ANYONE tickets and I need someone to go with.  He is an amazing guy and I am blessed to have him in my life.  Danielle is another one of those youth that became a close friend of mine after graduating.  Danielle and I have been through a lot together from ASP to Girl's retreat, to just sitting around talking about life.  She is always looking for the next adventure and I am blessed to be on this adventure called life with her!  Love you guys!  Thank you to all of you that have made me a part of your life even after you graduated the Youth program!

1. Coleen: This past year Coleen became my wife.  What started out as an amazing friendship grew to become love. I am blessed to call her my wife and to have her in my life.  She has such a love of the church and of our youth.  She is an amazing woman and we are a dynamic duo together!  I love you Coleen!

1-10: All of this could not be done or would even happen with out my love for the Lord.  God showed up when I was searching for what I was going to do for the rest of my life and he told me to follow him and he would make me a fisher of youth.  I am so thankful that he showed me the way because otherwise with my Environmental Science Natural Resource Management Degree, I would have become a fisher of fish!

So there you have it, a top 10 things / people / everything that have made my 10 years here at St. Mark's amazing.  This is just the tip of the iceberg and there is so many other things that I could write about but I am lucky if you have read this far so I leave those for another blog.

Thank you for being a part of this amazing journey.  Let's keep going... Here's to 10 more!!!

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