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I Lead Because Others Led Me

Whenever I’m asked why I am a volunteer leader to high school students, I usually say something like “when I was a teenager, the adult leaders in my youth group impacted my life. This is my way of paying them back.”

It’s a pretty simple answer. I don’t usually go into further detail because the person is usually just trying to make conversation, not hear my life story.

The truth is, the leaders in my youth ministry made a huge difference in my life. At a time in my life when I was trying to figure out if the Christian faith was worth it, these leaders helped me answer the tough questions. As a teenager, I pretty much ignored any advice that my parents gave me. My youth group leaders were different than my parents. Even though they were adults, and many of them parents, they weren’t my parents so I listened to them. More than their words, I watched how they lived. I watched them serve alongside me on summer mission trips. I watched them keep their calm when a car cut them off. I watched them make friends with the kid that no one wanted to talk to.

They were there to comfort me when my parents divorced, when I was cut from the basketball team and when I broke up with my boyfriend. They listened to me go on, and on, about my life. They patiently sat through story after story about my crush or my latest friend drama. If you haven’t guessed by now, I was a bit of a talker in high school.

I didn’t realize until I went to college how much my youth ministry meant to me. I struggled to find a similar community in college and I found myself longing for the comfort of a group of people like my youth group. I took for granted the relationships that I had with adults I admired. As I began to make decisions in my life about how I wanted to live as an adult, I thought back to my role models in high school. In so many ways, they helped to shape the person I’ve become today.

I don’t remember every word my leaders said to me. What I remember most is the time they spent with me. I remember the weekends they gave up to go on retreats and the Sunday nights they spent with us each week. I didn’t always listen and I probably didn’t always give them the respect they deserved. But in hindsight, I’m very thankful for the impact they made in my life.

[This post is dedicated to Bryan Morton, a former youth ministry leader who was full of energy and a great example of a loving husband to his wife Carrie (also a fabulous former leader). After fighting a brave battle against cancer, Bryan passed away early Saturday morning. Thank you, Bryan.]