Skip to main content

I've Seen It All

I’ve been in student ministry year-round, non-stop since June 2004.  Before that, I did three summers of student ministry.  Back then it was known as “youth ministry.”  In many careers nine years would not be substantial.  But in student ministry, I’m getting close to “dinosaur” status.  (Then, of course, I’ll be my paleontologist-wannabe-son’s hero.)

For many pastors, student ministry is a necessary first step, a building block to a career in “real” ministry.  The dramatic, confusing, scary, intimidating, unknown, rebellious, exhausting, LOUD, LOUD, LOUD world of teenagers is a world that must be endured, suffered through, until a church deems you mature enough to teach, preach, plan, and pray for people over the age of 18.  So, lots of young pastors do student ministry for 3-4 years and move on.  This means most students have more than one student pastor during their 6-7 years in “student ministry.”  It also means students often feel like the stepping stones they are.

So, while I’m only 31-years-old, I’m in an elite group of pastors.  I’m one of the ones who actually love teenagers to my very core.  I’m one of the ones who willingly step into their world, even though I’m not part of it anymore, willing to risk looking like the old, non-cool person I am.  Because I know they matter.  I know they need to know there are people who love them, accept them, want to understand them, listen to them, believe in them, and advocate for them. 

Recently, I read an article and watched a video, “I’ve Seen It All.”  It’s a video to encourage people like me who pastor to, with, and for students.  I enjoyed the blog and the video.  Check it out here:  I decided to make my own list.  If you’ve been in my student ministry as a student, parent, or volunteer, then I’d love to see your additions to this list! 

I’ve Seen It All

Youth group.
Student small groups.
Bonfires, scavenger hunts, river floats, laser tag, ski trips, bowling, putt-putt, amusement parks, concerts, ice skating, beach trips, progressive dinners, shaving cream wars, Capture the Flag, outdoor movies, go-carts, inflatables, ping-pong, 4-square, volleyball, basketball, football, foosball, skateboards, dodge ball, Trainwreck, Mafia, Apples to Apples, Ninja, Kumcha, Red Rover.
Lock-ins for 30 students…and 150…and 225.
Mission teams that fit in one 15-passenger van.  Mission teams that require 15 such vans.  Mission teams that require airplanes.
The parent who forgets their kid is at church…for over an hour after everyone else is gone.
The never-ending, inappropriate testimony.
Trips to the ER for busted lips, broken toes, and broken arms.
A hole in the dry wall from a skateboard.
Suicide attempts.
Students lying in the middle of the road…at dusk…just because.
Air mattresses turned into rafts in a city water main break.
The parent who screams at the pastor, because they really want to scream at their kid and know that’s not okay.
The parent who cannot believe you’d show that movie.
The junior high boy who knocks down his mom and steals her car.
The student who walks miles to my apartment to get away from a drug-using, passed out father.
The students the schools have kicked out.
The judge in the courtroom hearing my plea to extend grace to at-risk students.
The visiting room at the jail, the phone to communicate through clear plastic, when grace wasn’t an option.
The School Board passing judgment on whether a student can stay or not.
The ecstasy of high school graduation, for the one who barely made it.
The tears of parents who don’t know what else to do or if they’ve done anything right.
The tears of students who don’t know what else to do or if they’ve done anything right.
Cigarettes smoked at youth group.
Drugs sold on the mission trip.
Divorce, and the deep wounds it inflicts on families.
Teenagers having babies.
The hospital floor for mental health—the lockers for personal items, the locked door, and the young girl who jumped on my back, begging me not to leave her there.
Cancer.  In a teenager.  It’s not okay…
People come…and go…and come back sometimes.
Parents and teenagers out of control, yelling at me, denying my faith, cussing at me, calling me a colorful variety of names.
I’ve listened to stories of abuse—drugs, words, fists, sex.
I’ve been highly esteemed and highly criticized.
I’ve been told I made a difference and that I make no difference.
I’ve been in trouble with the Senior Pastor, the Executive Pastor, and just about every other pastor.
I’ve been in trouble for mentioning Grey’s Anatomy and the “S” word—sex.
I’ve fallen in the puke of a drunk student.
I’ve fought for students to have a full-time pastor with full-time pay.
I’ve fought when I didn’t have any more fight in me.
I’ve wanted out.
I’ve been unable to imagine doing anything else.

And, like the video, I’ve seen amazing things, too…
Victims of sexual abuse move forward.
The at-risk student become the go-to chaperone.
Students and families heal and learn from divorce.
Adults find healing in the community of teenagers.
Adults re-discover their faith in a student small group.
Students come to church and to faith all alone, without their families.
Whole families come to church and to faith together.
Students and adults learn to live with mental illness.
Parents make good, hard, tough love decisions…and see them pay off.
Parents heal from their own adolescent scars.
Students lead worship, preach, lead ministries, lead kids to Jesus.
Students grow up, get married, have babies, serve on the board of elders (Steering Team for us), serve in the student ministry.
God save, redeem, restore, and make new.


  1. Students mentoring, not just leading, other students in life and faith

  2. You have been the pastor of all five of my children.

    I couldn't have hand picked anyone better.

    Thank you.

  3. Beautiful and so real. Thank you for writing this, Angie.

  4. Absolutely moving! My oldest will be yours next year! and you are the most beautiful dinosaur I know! Thanks for sharing your heart with so many.

  5. Church discipline.
    Crazy, wild junior highers who become senior highers who complain about the crazy, wild junior highers.
    Tears. Lots of tears.
    Practical jokes.
    I'm going on a trip, and I'm taking . . .
    Talent shows--lollygaggers, whip it, squirrels
    Did I mention tears?
    Students in trouble on mission trips. Chaperones in trouble on mission trips.
    Smells. Bad smells.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A Response to Charlottesville

Visiting our nation’s capital is an easy day trip for us, and how I chose to spend a precious vacation day this week.  I took pride in explaining the buildings and icons of my country to my children.  I am proud to be an American.  

But today, I am not proud.  
Today, I weep.

Four days ago, I saw the beautiful, infamous words “We the People” with my own eyes for the first time.  
Four days later, I am reminded of how far we still have to go to fully live into those words:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

What has happened 63 miles from my home, in Jefferson’s beautifully-domed, colonnaded city, is far from perfect, just, or tranquil.
This is not what our founding fathers wanted for our country, nor is …

A Message to Graduates

I have been a Pastor to Students (The title has changed numerous times; the role remains.) in Powhatan, Virginia for roughly 12 years.  I daresay I've been ministering to teenagers in this community longer than many.

Over the last dozen years, I've gotten lots of cool opportunities to minister to teenagers in this area.   But one had always eluded me--speaking at a baccalaureate service.  My husband had done the honors.  Other great pastors in the area had as well.  Once, I'd offered the closing prayer.  

This week, that changed.  I had the distinct honor to share with the PHS Class of 2016 at their baccalaureate service.  It was a wonderful experience working with great students, parents, and school leaders.  I'm so grateful for the opportunity!!!

A few people missed it and have asked to see what I said, so here it is, ALL of it:

June 1999 I sat in this space for my Baccalaureate service.  Before I was a pastor at PCC, before I moved back to Powhatan to raise my family, …

Disillusionment of Adulthood

Now that I’m in my 30’s, I must confess to disillusionment.  Growing up, I had ideas of what adulthood would be like.  I’m here, and it’s not entirely what I’d imagined.
For starters, I remember growing up amidst all the drama that comes with, well, growing up.  The gossip.  The hurt feelings.  The misunderstandings.  The fights between friends.  The back-stabbing.  And I remember being told that it would get better.  I’m not sure who told me that, but they were clearly wrong.
The drama may look a little different.  The words may sound a little different.  But the anguish of relationships remains.
Adults hurt each other’s feelings—intentionally and unintentionally. Adults nitpick and cause fights over inconsequential issues. Adults gossip. Adults cry, scream, and pitch fits. Adults build relational alliances, competing in “us vs. them” relational war. Adults let issues build and exponentially swell until they explode. Adults rarely identify the actual issue instead of the presenting issue. Adul…