Where Is Your Pen?

Writing Letters as a Critical Practice to Youth MinistryA number of years ago I began a practice during Lent to write 5 letters a day. Yes, writing letters..

Sounds crazy doesn’t it.

If you want to put some stock into the youth ministry that you oversee then I’d suggest you dust off one of those pens (you know, the freebie ones that you got at the last youth ministry conference) and start putting onto the paper…

This practices was then, and still is, big for me as a ministry professional.

But What Do You Write About?

I hadn’t written letters in quite some time, so when starting I kept letters short and succinct. I wrote essentially “thank you” letters to people involved in our youth ministry. I sent letters to teenagers, parents, my pastors, people who have supported me through years of youth work, and even a few family members. It was a tough commitment to keep, but the end result was one of the most magical practices I’ve ever experience in my two decades of youth work. I was honest & heartfelt with what I wrote to them. If I thought they were a great mom, or a dad struggling I mentioned that and affirmed that they were doing great with their youth. If they were a teenager I would share what type of person I saw in them; adventurous, loving, welcoming, compassionate, etc. If I was writing to a mentor then I shared how I felt they helped impact or shape the ministry that I was doing. What I found was that once I started writing the words came very easy.

I was not prepared to have the moms, dads, teenagers, etc. come to me after receiving letters, some even wrote back (maybe the most surprising), saying how much that my letter meant to them. Often times they mentioned crying or being moved in some fashion they had not felt in quite a while.Some people would come back and share about some deep emotional scars they were dealing with and for some reason that letter gave them comfort to talk to me about it. Those were really humbling moments.

Not that it was my intended goal with writing these letters but many times the parents, teens, pastors would affirm a more dedicated commitment for the coming year to the youth ministry. Those commitments were really helpful, especially during some tough times in ministry.

We work within a culture of critique and everyone needs a little celebrating. If nothing else, celebrate them because they are created in God’s image (I think I read that in the Bible somewhere). We also work in a culture where communication is digital and instant. When you take some time and invest in someone – writing a letter is an action in that direction – then people are more than willing to invest in you.

So find your pen, and start today. Start writing a few honest & loving ‘thank you’ letters to people who surround & are within your ministry. You’ll find that good things come from it.

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