The above picture is me on my very first Sunday at Grace Community Church (I'm the good looking one, by the way.) It's hard to believe that I've been here over 9 years now. It really hit me when I realized that I baby sat and changed the diapers for one of the students that just entered our middle school ministry this year. Yikes! But, these 9 years have been an incredible ride and I've seen my walk with God grow more in these 9 years than in the previous 31 years of my life. One of my desires has always been to stay in a ministry for a long time. Some people are "starters." They can move from place to place, get things rolling, and then move on. Nothing wrong with that, but that's not me. I've always had a desire to stay at a ministry and invest as much time as possible in the people there.
I've been the youth pastor here long enough to see many things come "full circle." For instance,the very first student I met when I came to Grace Community is now married, in my adult small group, and is serving as one of the volunteers in our ministry and is doing an amazing job! I love seeing that!
I think longevity gives you some credibility. It lets people know you're committed to them and to the ministry. It allows you to lay down some roots in the community. It helps you (especially in youth ministry) gain some respect from parents and add a sense of "professionalism" to the position of youth ministry. They see youth ministry is not just some young guy playing C.O.D. and eating pizza with teenagers all the time (although that can be part of it). And, I think it adds a sense of trust for teenagers. Whether they admit it or not, teenagers, I believe, long for a sense of security and stability. In an interpersonal world that is experiencing so many changes, it's nice to have a sense of security at home and at church. Staying in a ministry for a long period of time helps students feel secure and be more willing to trust you.
The picture below was taken just a couple of weeks ago. Personally, so much has changed for me. Since that first day over 9 years ago, I've become a husband and a dad. I have a few more ... OK ... a lot more gray hairs, and although I weigh the same, the weight has positioned itself a little differently now. But, the one thing that stays the same is my love for and belief in teenagers. I have no clue where I'll be at 9 years from now. But, if I'm still effective and still being used, I believe I'll still be working with a group that so often gets overlooked ... our teenagers.