Sunday, July 22, 2007

In Praise of Youth Pastors

"Dad, can some kids stay at the church for our summer mission-trip?' It was an innocuous question our son Luke asked me in April. July seemed a long way off and he said it would be a small group. He called later in June telling me the group was up to almost 20, could they still stay? "Sure" I said, "I can find a couple homes for 20." Then he called me last week. "Dad, the group is now 34, can we still come?" How do you criticize success? "Sure" I said "We'll find a way."
Saturday evening 3 vans rolled in to our parking lot right during a huge wedding I was not performing. Students from Valley Covenant Church in Eugene, Oregon had been up since 4:30 am and had been working in central LA all day with "Dream Center" mission. They were hot, tired and HUNGRY. Martha and I did a Costco run for two meals, spending over $250 for bulk foods. I grilled hamburgers and hot dogs like there was no tomorrow. These students ate, and ate, and ate some more. We got them farmed out to homes of gracious MCC church members and we ended up with 9 boys who, were HUNGRY again. We popped all the popcorn we had in the house (maybe a dozen bags) made juice, and laundered towels (they all needed long, hot showers). They decided to sleep outside on the balcony of the upper room of the church because our sprinkler system comes on at random times. They worshiped with us today in a blue t-shirted block and then spent the afternoon handing out food they cooked to the homeless of Santa Barbara. They hit the beach and State Street and returned to church around 5:30, HUNGRY again. I cooked 3 big tri-tips and Martha made a Mexican taco-style dinner. Nothing was left!!
Then Luke gathered them in our back yard with the chiminera lit and led them in devotions for over an hour. They sat stone still as he spoke. I remebered that. I remembered being a youth pastor and pushing myself into delirious exhaustion, sometimes behaving like one of the youths and sometimes hating them and wanting simply peace and quiet. But it's all for those magic moments when you've earned their love and trust and ina circle, with a fire, they open their hearts to what you have to say about Jesus. I got to watch our son do that tonight. I know youth pastors around the country (and world) are doing that night after night, unobserved, criticized by their sr. pastors for leaving messes, making too much noise, not getting enough kids to attend church and spending beyond their budget. All those criticisms are valid...until you see the circle and the attentive hearts, more attentive than they will ever be during one of my sermons. Bless them all!


At 12:03 AM , Blogger M Squared said...

Thanks for this perspective! We've been following our kids on their blog thehappening. May God continue to work through them and those that support them along the way. Thanks for your help!

At 12:45 AM , Blogger Jeanne said...

Don, I thought it was wonderful to have your son bring 'his kids' to his dad's church. What a great affirmation for you to have your son modeling Jesus to these kids!

And we in your church family watch Luke and his kids from a distance, feeling proud of Luke like some old distant relations-- actually, we are proud of both of you!

Jeanne R

At 8:28 AM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

It is a parent's deep privilege to watch their children lead as adults. I've been triple blessed to see all our children in their adult settings using their gifts. I think we need to be generationally more grateful for emerging leaders.

At 4:33 PM , Anonymous Ted Smith said...

Thanks so much for opening your church (and your home) to our youth. We (and they) appreciate the hospitality, and we appreciate Luke's ministry with them.


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