Have you ever wished a student could attend a certain camp, retreat, or mission trip because you know that their life would change drastically if they would just GO! But they give you countless excuses of why they can’t go because of scheduling conflicts or priority challenges. Sometimes it feels like they must enjoy sitting in their misery and confusion because you have provided them with tools that can change their situation, yet they don’t take them! If by some act of God they do decide to attend the spiritually reviving activity, they repeatedly remind you, “this isn’t helping.” Frustrating right?!
I don’t want to go, either.
Well, I must confess that I slipped into that stereotypical, “I need help but no one can give it to me” attitude when it came to furthering my education/training in youth ministry. I found myself in an emotional tornado displaying annoyance, confusion, and defeat. I became so overwhelmed with the decision that I eventually started ignoring the option all together. Maybe the Methodist church doesn’t have a program that provides training, education, and networking? And then a friend suggested I look into the certification program offered by Perkins School of Theology. It sounded fancy enough, so I looked into it and discovered that it takes about five years to complete certification. To be honest, the commitment scared me. Five years is a long time and quite the financial investment. What if God calls me into a different form of ministry in five years? Should I be looking into receiving my local pastor’s license instead? I had a few more questions that I will leave unmentioned to spare you from my ever-clicking brain.
So, again, I ignored the option while secretly yearning for something more. Something more than just curriculum suggestions. Something more than innovative spiritual activities. Something more than a weekend conference. I longed to be fed and motivated spiritually so that I could in return feed and motivate the youth in my community. And just like that, I became the stereotypical student that always complains about wanting more but never commits to the solution. That is until the same annoying friend who shall remain nameless (Eddie Erwin), called me and reminded me that the deadline for certification registration was the next day and I should get on it. Ugh, relentless! Now I know how my students feel when I call them about camp registration deadlines. I was ready to respond with my usual, “I’ll think about it” or “maybe next year” when I realized what I was doing. I was getting in the way.
The next day I completed all required paperwork, requested my undergrad transcript be sent to Perkins, and received approval from my pastor and SPR committee to attend the certification class. And just when I thought the hard stuff was over with, I received my syllabus for class. I definitely got what I asked for when it came to the level of class content exceeding games and curriculum suggestions. God knocked my ego back where it belonged. After receiving my syllabus and reading the required material for class, all I had left to do was show up to school in January.
…OK, but I’m not going to have a good time.
Again, I had no idea what to expect, but I did know that God’s hand was in this journey.
I would like to be able to tell you a smooth and detailed explanation of how the week and class went, but I can’t. All I can tell you is that God changed me at Perkins. He changed my heart and challenged me to reconsider my approach to youth ministry. I went to school thinking that life was about black and white answers that I need to know so that I can give them to my students, but I left there with more questions than answers… and that is a very good thing.
I learned. I struggled. I argued. I laughed. I played bingo. I made life long friendships.
And most importantly… I spiritually grew.
I left school with a new perspective on youth ministry, the Methodist church, and myself. I now have confidence in my calling from God that I never knew I needed. I realize this might sound like a promotional article to persuade people to pursue their certification in youth ministry, but it is just my honest experience. An experience that I am eternally grateful for and look forward to class next year.
photo courtesy of @RabbitEarJones