This past weekends was a big one in my Christian walk. I took the Gateway youth to Youth Conference in Edmonton Alberta. While prepping and talking about YC I expected to to see my kids have a great time and learn things about God and his love and to have really tired youth by the end of day three. What I got was so much more...
I will tell you that I had already started this blog before the weekend and while sitting in a leadership session during YC I heard a speaker that said something that spoke directly to my heart. You already know from my previous posts I was an Air Cadet as a teenager, a CI (Civilian Instructor) as an adult and I am the oldest of 4 kids. Needless to say during all those positions in life you learn a little bit about leadership and being a role model. I was taking lessons at the age of 14 about how to be a good leader and how to treat your followers. It's strange for me now to talk to people my own age with much less leadership experience. As I get older I realize how much of my own personal attributes and major parts of my personalty were shaped from things I was taught from a very early age by the Cadet Program.
I had no idea about all the different 'hats' I would be wearing with the kids. I have been a sister, a friend, a support system, a counsellor, a mentor and most importantly a role model.
I have now been working with the Gateway Youth for a year. Let me tell you that no amount of preparation and life experience prepared me for what I was walking into last summer. When I first talked to Pastor Drake about becoming a member at Gateway he asked me a few questions and we soon figured out that we have the Cadet Program in common. Not long after I was invited to come to the planning session for the youth group kick off, and to meet the student leadership team. I liked it right from the start, and after about week Drake asked me if I would come back and that was strange to hear because in my mind I had already decided I would be working with them. Internally I thought that I had enough experience with kids and youth that this really shouldn't be a problem. Well, let me tell you that my own personal growth from working with these kids this year has been astronomical. I had no idea about all the different 'hats' I would be wearing with the kids. I have been a sister, a friend, a support system, a counsellor, a mentor and most importantly a role model. I had absolutely no idea that by agreeing to work with the Youth that I would need to be in possession of so many Hats.
This weekend at the Youth Conference I was inspired in so many ways. I was so happy that our kids had the most incredible time, to see 10,000 people raise their hands in worship, and to be blessed to sit through some of the sessions and classes I got to attend. I sat through some really great speakers and learnt some things that are really going to help me on my journey to be a better youth leader. I heard talks called 'Love God, Love People, Do Stuff', 'Embracing the Awkward, Talking about Teens and Sex', 'Future Church', and 'Good Grief'.
Often my friends will ask me why I give up my Friday nights to work at the church with the youth, when I could be doing so many other things. I always say it is because I love it here. I love the team, I love the kids, I love learning from them and being able to support them. Now it seems like I have a much bigger end game
During one of these talks a speaker said something that I had kind of thought of, but never in a way that I could put words to it. She said to imagine that a teen from your youth group brings a friend to the next youth night. (Which happens more often than not at Gateway). Then said to imagine that the teen coming has come from a family that does not attend a church and that teen doesn't know a lot about God. She asked us how common it is to meet the lead pastor on a youth night... That's not common for anyone. Then She asked us if the kids meet the youth pastor right away. Sometimes they do, and depending on how big the night is, they may not meet him right away. Then she said, 'Depending on where that child comes from and their knowledge about being a Christian, you as a youth worker might be the only living example of Jesus that teen with know.' Talk about a big statement! It made the hair on my arms stand up. I may very well be some teens' only point of contact about God. What an expectation to live up to! I had never thought about it that way. I just show up, put on whatever hat they need from me that day and float along the path of Youth ministry.
Often my friends will ask me why I give up my Friday nights to work at the church with the youth, when I could be doing so many other things. I always say it is because I love it here. I love the team, I love the kids, I love learning from them and being able to support them. Now it seems like I have a much bigger end game, I knew I was a role model before this weekend, I just had no idea that in the eyes of some, I would be their main example of the church and ultimately of God. Talk about needing to step it up!
I left feeling a little overwhelmed and then thinking it over and talking to my Grandfather, I have decided to look at is as a great challenge for myself. Something greater to be working towards, something to add above my hats. I wear all these different hats at different times for the youth, ultimately so they can see that church is an open and loving place and people care about them here. If that lets them grow in their learning and their faith then what a great job to have!
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