Dear youth directors,
This may seem a little “after the fact” seeing as I have been out of youth group for about a year now. It’s hard to imagine it really has been that long, but, I have been out long enough for another entire group of kids to graduate behind me and for brand new 6th graders to be welcomed into the pack.
In this last year, though, being out of an organized youth group filled with kids of all ages has given me a lot of time to think about what you’ve meant to me. It’s given me a lot of time to reflect on all the years you poured into me, even in the times that I thought we were just joking around. It’s given me time to realize that all those trips, concerts and camps we went to were filled with moments that literally shaped me into the person I am today. It’s given me time to realize that you were and are an integral part of my growing up years, and I could never express the true impact you’ve had on my life.
It’s pretty safe to say that youth directors are an interesting bunch. You know as well as I do that it takes a certain type of person to get the job done. I’ve encountered quite a few in my years of involvement in my church, and in that time I have found that no two are alike. Each one has their own talents, their own specialties, their own vision for what their group can be. Despite these differences, what I can say is that I have yet to meet one who hasn’t blown me away. Your seemingly limitless energy, your unwavering patience and your willingness to do something absolutely ridiculous for the entertainment of your youth is beyond me. Your heart for middle schoolers and high schoolers makes me realize what a super hero you are. The days, weeks and months you spent planning Bible study after Bible study and trip after trip for a kid like me to get a little closer to Jesus is something I don’t think I could ever thank you enough for.
Recently, when my own youth group went up to camp I couldn’t help but go visit. As I turned on to Methodist Camp Road and came up to that “Blue Lake” sign, I felt the Lord’s peace in my heart as I was finally back in the place I so often long to be. Don’t get me wrong, I love that place with all my heart, but ultimately this peace had nothing to do with the trees, the lake or the familiar smell of the buildings (seriously, some things literally never change.) It was a peace that reminded me that this was a place the Lord dwells. It reminded me of all the years I stood in the chapel and experienced the presence of God first hand. It reminded me of all the times I sat talking, laughing and crying with not only my friends but with the adults who got me there. (I could go on about Oakwood camp forever, but let me just say, it’s one of a kind and Lord always shows up.)
Anyways, though, this drive to camp pretty much shoved in my face the fact that my time as a youth was probably the most pivotal years of my life and I owe so much of that to you, my youth director. Obviously the Lord is the one who rocks kids’ worlds, but you got me there. You laid the foundation. You taught lessons, listened when you didn’t have to and put up with gaggles of teenage girls in our silliest moments because that’s just the name of the game. You did it all with compassion, love and a deep understanding of the way the Lord works in the lives of youths. You’ve seen kids ages 11-18 have their worlds turned upside down by the hand of God and I can only imagine that’s what keeps you going.
Your job seems like a tough one. You play teacher, friend, mediator, counselor, parent and countless other roles on a daily basis. You are put in charge of all sorts of kids with all sorts of stories and you are expected to bring them together. You are given responsibility over the physical well-being of an entire group of teenagers and the spiritual well-being also. You have a lot on your plate every single day, and you always pull through. I imagine that there may have been times that you questioned whether or not it was worth it and whether or not what you were doing held any weight…
Let me be the first to tell you it was and it did.
So, with all that, I think the only thing left to say is thank you. Thank you for being who you are and for doing what you were called to do (even if only for a season of your life.) Thank you for demonstrating grace and love. Thank you for doing all that you could for a hodgepodge group of awkward teenagers just trying to find their place in this world. I don’t know that I’ve found mine yet, but I know that without you, I wouldn’t be anywhere close.
With so much love and gratitude,
Samantha (and every other youth whose life is better because of you.)