Long Post Warning!
Three years ago I started asking God, “What can I do with the skills and gifts you’ve given me in serving you the next fifteen years? “ I began to seek out what God would have me to do. There was no clear “Aha” moment at that time. I just knew I wanted to be used in the best way possible.
I have been in student ministry both as a volunteer and as a full time youth pastor for 26 years. In those years I have seen student ministry change drastically. I had come to a point where I felt like I was banging my head against a wall due to either apathetic students or Christian parents who no longer found that involvement in church was important for their kids. A point where I felt like we were moving step by step through three feet of mud and not making any ground. So I thought perhaps it was time to move on but with a family to take care of I had to be absolutely certain of any changes. For a few years I was weighing out options and ideas for ministry.
Three years ago I took our first team of students to the island of Eleuthera on a mission trip. This trip sparked a passion within me. I saw what was being done at Camp Bahamas for the cause of Christ. I saw students who were hungry for Christ. I saw people in need of hope. I joked with Richard, camp director, that he needed a missions coordinator to help him carry the load at the camp. He said, “Your hired”. I laughed it off. But over the next couple of years I could not shake Eleuthera off my mind so much so that I began to pray and consider this as a direction to go. I took my family there on a family mission trip to test and see if it was a fit for my whole family and not just me. It was not a fit and I was disappointed but I knew that God would not give me this passion if he didn’t want me to be involved in some way.
At the same time our church made some changes in our Discipleship plan. The problem was the shift in how we wanted to see discipleship happen was huge and there was no one to drive that boat. So this plan simply has been stalled four a couple of years. I could not do anything about it because I was already stretched as both youth pastor and ministry teams pastor. This was another source of frustration to me because I knew this would be a large step forward for our church’s health.
This year I went through Reset with Doug Franklin at LeaderTreks which gave me a clear direction on discipling students but really it sparked more of a passion to teach parents how to disciple their own kids. This process of coaching from the outside gave me some time to really think about and process the direction of our student ministry. I shifted my focus from “we need better attendance at youth group” to “we need to disciple the students we have.”
Then one morning in August in our staff meeting, after our most recent mission trip to Eleuthera with our adults, a light bulb came on. We had been looking at a mission strategy that would adopt a nation to reach by helping churches there become healthy churches and the heroes to their community instead of the Americans swooping in to do the mission work and then leave. The light bulb was this: Why invest in the nations of the Bahamas because we have such a great connection to Camp Bahamas on Eleuthera? So our mission strategy was born but would also need someone to lead.
So as of January 1, 2018 I will step down as youth pastor at Nags Head Church after sixteen years of serving in this position here. I will be the pastor who oversees our Ministry Teams, our Discipleship and Missions strategy. This will allow me to work where I’m passionate. This will allow me to be entrepreneurial in ministry, starting something knew. This will allow me to use what I have learned in student ministry and as ministry teams pastor in assembling teams, organization, follow through and dreaming about the future and charting the course and building systems.
This does not mean I am done with student ministry. I’m going to continue to disciple the two young men I have been discipling. I will shift some focus to parents. If our student ministry is going to grow and be healthy parents are going to need to learn how to disciple their own child. So I will build relationships with parents, learn along with them on how to disciple our kids, and lead the occasional parenting small group. I will also stay involved in student ministry by training and equipping student pastors and their teams and speaking at camps and retreats through FaithinFocus.
Ramon Sanchez has been serving on our student ministry team for many years. He came to know Christ through the outreach of our church and has grown in his faith tremendously over the years. He has a great ability to connect with students. We have invested heavily into Ramon as a leader. So I will be around as a resource to Ramon but will not be serving on the student ministry team. I believe God has called Ramon to this place and God will lead Ramon in the direction God wants to go.
So there you have it! After 25 plus years of ministry I’m looking at a “career change” a shift in focus. Following the passion God has given me and serving Him with the gifts and abilities He has blessed me with. Big adventure ahead and I’m excited about it.