I got my start with Teen Ministry back in 2007 at a Baptist Church in central Texas. My husband was on a deployment (when isn’t he, right?) to Iraq during that time, and I had just made it though my first holiday season without him. A few Sunday mornings in a row, my eyes were drawn to a specific sentence that had been printed inside of the church bulletin. In bold letters it read: “Youth Group in Need of Host Homes for Small Groups!” After reading this several weeks in a row, I decided to raise my hand and volunteer our little 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house on Dorothy Jane. I was confused when the Youth Pastor interviewed me in his office and had me fill out an application to work with Youth. I didn’t ask any questions about it though, because I figured it was standard House Hosting protocol. When I checked the box on that bulletin insert, I thought I was saying yes to straightening the living room and setting out chips and dip once a week, but God had other plans.
It has been a little over 7 years since the first time I sat down with a few high school girls as a small group leader, and I still get the same butterflies when I get a new bunch of young ladies eager to learn about Christ. It’s funny to watch their different personalities blend together to form a camaraderie that, I know from experience, will be forever etched in their life story. I also find it quite amusing to see the comparison of one girl, from central Texas, to another in a completely different state, and again to another in a separate county. The even more entertaining correlation is that every single girl, from every different walk of life, looks like a piece of my reflection.
One thing that just comes with the territory of teen ministry is the sarcasm and wit of those spunky young mouths! I’m used to being teased and picked on for my pink hair, white girl dance moves, and post-surgical laugh. Comments about my inability to catch a frisbee or ridiculous parking jobs are usually expected. My most recent group of teenage girls caught me off guard though. Now, I pride myself of my quick wit and ability to drop any jaw with an off-the-wall comeback, but this question stumped me. One Tuesday night, I was asked, “Who is your favorite?”
I have thought about that question for months now, and I know that all of the other girls have too. If I was to even try and pick just one girl to be at the top of my list, that would be a mighty long list to choose from (You’ll see). And then, I think of when I was a teenager. Was I anyone’s favorite? Probably not. In fact, I’m sure that I wasn’t. And then, I wonder why wouldn’t I have been someone’s favorite? The things about my teenage self that I’m ashamed of or thought of as annoying…I find them charming or humbling in my girls. So, maybe I was someone’s favorite. And yet, probably not. It’s amazing how this question has haunted me and made me think. It’s amazing how God has taught me through teaching these girls.
So, after months of thinking and considering, I decided on my answer to this horrible question, and that is that YOU are my favorite. At the very moment that I am looking you in the eyes, I am seeing teenage me, in desperate need of someone to show me the love of Jesus. At the very moment that I am speaking your name in prayer, I hear someone saying my name, and lifting it up to the throne of God. At the very moment that we are sitting on my couch, staring at the pregnancy test, I see the person who stared at my test with me, judgement free and full of the forgiveness of Christ. At the very moment that you tell me you want to end your life, I see me, sitting in a puddle of tears with the very same thoughts. At the very moment that you share your stories of abuse, I see me, too afraid to tell anyone my own stories. At the very moment that you say nothing at all, I see me, unwilling to open up out of fear of rejection or a lack of trust. YOU are and always will be my favorite, because you are the teenage me that needed someone.
All of my girls – past, present, and future – this is for you. Thank you for sitting on my couch and allowing me into your hearts and lives. It is a privilege to be a part of your life story, and I look forward to watching you all grow to become the someone else’s someone with your own group of girls, year after year. No matter where you are in life or where you go, I think of you and pray for you often!
My Favorites (in chronological-ish order):
Kendall…. Faith, Laura, Rachel, Becca, Missy, Ashley H, Sammy, Alyssa F, Hannah W, Sam S, Shelby W, Emma, Amber
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”