Ordination training involves a series of goodbyes. Here’s another in a series of goodbye letters I’ll be writing over the course of my training.
To the young people in my youth group,
Hey guys. How are you doing? Hands up if you’re absolutely knackered post-Soul Survivor. (I would raise a hand, but I think I’ve got worship arm, it’s like tennis elbow but caused by exuberant hand raising in praise of God). I know some of you aren’t thrilled by your GCSE results yesterday, but I hope you know how proud I am of all of you and just how proud God is of you, how he looks at you and doesn’t see numbers on a piece of paper, but sees his child, made in his image, who he couldn’t love any more or less.
So, the first thing to say is that, even though I am no longer your youth leader, I am not going to stop loving you or being there for you. God might have called me out of this season of youth work (with persistent nagging from my DDO, spiritual director, and tutor), but he has not called me to ask for the pieces of my heart you have grabbed back. This basically means you are stuck with me stubbornly inserting myself into your life to hear about everything that is going on in your lives.
It has been such a joy to watch you grow over the past few years. And I mean that literally. How are you all now taller than me? We feed you Coco Pops, they don’t have enough nutritional value for you guys to all be hovering about the six foot mark! But, seriously, I have loved watching you grow, getting to have a front row seat as you discover more of you Jesus is and who you are, and who he says you are. I have loved being with you as you have celebrated and sat with you as you’ve struggled. I’ve gently held the hopes and fears you’ve admitted to me and sent them up to your Father for you. I’ve been your cheerleader, (and, of course, I’ve nagged you all within an inch of your lives, especially at Soul Survivor).
And you’re all so wise, you don’t need anymore advice from me. But I’m going to give you some anyway:
- The local church is where it’s at. You’re going to be enticed by snazzy churches who can offer you all sorts of things to lure you in, but when it comes to church, choose steadfast family over temporal freebies.
- A Christian is not someone who is sorted, who feels God every second of every day, who never messes up, who never struggles. A Christian is someone who knows that in the mess, in the struggles, and in those precious mountain top moments, that God is for them, with them. So don’t put pressure on yourself to feel sorted, just keep drawing close to Jesus.
- Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. I hope I have modelled for you guys someone who leads but is vulnerable, that I have not been someone who has projected an image, but that I have been real with you guys about where I struggle, about what my fears are. The older I get, the less interested I am in small talk and people’s facades. I don’t want to love the projection of a person, I want to love the actual person. God doesn’t love our projection, he loves the person he made.
- Desire the spiritual gifts. It might sound a bit weird, but God tells us in the Bible to desire them. Desire them because they require getting closer to God and they help you love the world and all the people in it.
- Remember you are loved and that Nothing. Can. Ever. Change. That. Nothing. It’s not about your doctrine, your ethics, your churchmanship, it’s about that moment when God dreamed you and then breathed you into existence and divine particles fixed themselves to your soul and it spelt out ‘loved.’
I would be lying if I said I was okay with stepping down from youth work. But I’m trying to be obedient to God and he has said to stop, so, with a broken heart, I am stopping.
It has been the privilege of a lifetime to be your youth leader. And I love you.
Are you an ordinand? Would you like to write for ‘Confessions of a Trainee Vicar?’ Use the ‘Contact’ page to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you – and I know others would too!