I didn’t grow up Lutheran; I didn’t participate in youth group; my confirmation class was a grand total of 3 months in my 7th grade year; my only “mission trips” was a one day event in Chicago as part of confirmation and a weekend service retreat in Chile. I’m still kind of amazed that I am now very active with middle and high school church youth and that with them I feel truly alive and my soul feels full and satisfied. God works in funny ways sometimes 🙂
So, with all that in mind, I had noooo idea what I’d agreed to when I volunteered to be an adult chaperone for our church’s group to the National Youth Delegation. In fact, I hadn’t planned on being a chaperone at all. There’s a “library camp” that would be great for my professional development, but I had the gut feeling/Holy Spirit guidance that it just wasn’t right for me at this particular moment. When four adults asked me why I wasn’t an adult chaperone for our youth, I gave in and went.
Let me also add that this was a leap of faith. I am an introvert, so the idea of being with 33,000 people at once was, waaay out of my comfort zone. I’m more passionate and comfortable with middle schoolers that high schoolers. I have mixed feelings on short term mission trips. I don’t know why I felt like I was supposed to be there.
And honestly, I’m still not sure. I still have unanswered questions. Is there a place for introverts,the outcasts, and the poor in youth ministry? Would any bystanders of youth bullying actually be inspired to make a difference after hearing multiple sermonettes on the topic? Would all the “pom poms for Jesus” atmosphere reach the hearts, minds, and souls of these wonderful young people? Will they really be able to carry the energy and message of “love like Jesus” into their lives at home?
Despite my many unanswered questions, I found so much good. I found a community of youth and adults who love youth. I found others who share my love for David Lose devotionals. I heard Nadia Bolz-Weber speak . I found inspiration in youth excited about their faith. Worshipping in the Superdome with that many people was an experience like no other. Giving a standing ovation to the bishop and to pastors and witnessing youth asking for photos and their autographs was certainly something unusual and delightful. Participating in a candlelight procession, being anointed to serve, singing my favorite hymn in a crowd that huge gave me goosebumps and made my soul dance with joy.
Above all, I felt Spirit nudges in ways that I haven’t in the past. I brought an extra journal with me, then found a youth who needed one; I reached out to a student who had doubts about her faith that she was afraid to express in that setting; I pulled a student out of the street before he was hit by a car; I went on this trip when it seemed completely illogical and countercultural. None of these are things that followed my usual thinking patterns–yet I whole-heartedly believe God used them for good because I sensed to follow.
As always, I leave with a little law and a little gospel to ponder. In our dose of law, God asks us to go outside our comfort zone, to take risks, and to follow Holy Spirit nudging. This isn’t easy, and it certainly isn’t always fun. But the gospel promise is that God will do things through us that are greater than we can ever imagine.
This week, I invite you to listen for Holy Spirit guidance in whatever for it may present itself. I encourage you to be open to the mysterious ways God works. I pray that you will find your life enriched by the loving presence of a God that has called us each by name–and commands us to go out there in the world and make a difference in His name. Amen.