When Ryan, our Herndon Middle School Minister, asked if I would be the speaker for the Surge (our middle school ministry) weekend away, I got both excited and nervous. I got excited to get back to my roots (I was a youth pastor for six years) but also nervous that I had forgotten how to talk to students. I mean it’s been over two years and a lot has changed in that amount of time. Would I know how to relate to them? Do they still love Taylor Swift? (Of course, everyone loves T Swift!) Would my “Saved by the Bell” references fall flat? (Yes, yes they would.) Is Glee still a thing? All of these thoughts came to mind as I told Ryan emphatically “Yes!”
This past weekend, I watched as adults, some even older than me, showed up for these students. They acted silly with them. They jumped in on intense games of Octaball. They dressed up in tack outfits to attend a dance with the students. They stayed up way past their usual bedtimes, drinking red bull and eating sour patch kids so their students would feel like this was the best weekend of their life. They prayed with students. Shared their own struggles and doubts, allowing students to know they aren’t alone. And most importantly they listened to their students.
And you know what else I saw this weekend? My kids being loved by the Surge students. My wife, Kelly, and the crew came with me this weekend and all of us had a blast. Each of my three older kids quickly got “adopted” into a group for the weekend. They were treated as if they completely belonged in that group. The middle schoolers were doing for my kids exactly what the adults were doing for them.
Something I will never forget about this weekend was seeing Alice (my six-year-old daughter) with her group of 6th grade girls singing “Oceans.” She was completely unaware that her dad was watching her. She was just worshipping hands lifted high in the air mimicking some of the girls in her group. She was learning how to worship from these 6th grade girls. She was learning it is OK to be completely wrapped up in the moment expressing gratitude to God for all He has done. I can’t help but believe both her Heavenly Father and I will never forget that moment.
The specific things I said in my talks over the weekend may or may not be remembered by the students years from now. But they will remember that I was there. That I showed up. They will remember their leaders and how their leaders made them feel. They probably will remember the “Meow, I’m a Cat” song and Kim Clark’s space kitten leggings. (Gosh, I miss youth ministry.)
While I was at camp this past weekend, I realized just showing up is really all that is necessary. Wanting to be with students is enough. All of us have a deep desire to be known, wanted, and loved. Showing up says, “I think you are worth it.”