Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My Youth Pastor

This is my youth pastor from high school, RJones. For those you keeping track, I have served under four youth pastors and 50% of them have had the last name Jones. Hmm.

Anyway, RJones was a fantastic youth pastor. When I first met him, I had just become a Christian and the environment he created and shaped was one of fun, acceptance and growth. He was relational to the extreme, he totally loved students and students knew it.

I went to church for the first time *ever* in August of 1984, right after I had become a Christian that March and worked at a Christian boys wilderness camp all summer long - a hugely formative time for my spiritual growth. So, my first Sunday in church and youth group ever, and RJones asks me to stand up and tell everyone in youth group one thing I learned all summer. "Uh, I learned how to build a fire."

Looking back, I grew even more when I was a college student and served as a youthworker under RJones. I learned what it took to run a student ministry week-in and week-out, what is important on retreats, how to build into a team of youthworkers and how to transition the ministry that you loved to someone else. As a young married professional, he brought me on to a teaching team for an adult sunday school class. Less formative but a still great experience nonetheless.

The crux though was in 1992 when RJones asked me to lead their summer student missions program called Mission Possible, a six week long potpourri of different mission minded experiences for high school students. They already had a framework for the six week layout, but, in his words, "You can do whatever you want." We took five of the existing six and partnered with a ministry in the KY coal mines for that sixth one to make something a little new. Inner city camps, beach outreach, VBS - a fantastic summer. In fact, those six weeks were hands-down the *best* ministry experience I had ever had - up until SPACE came along.

It's been 22 years since I first met RJones and though he is now a pastor of adults, he is still creating and shaping disciples.

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