An open letter to my youth leaders.

Dear youth leaders, I want to take a moment to honour you. I have been in my job at Para Vista Lutheran Church running the youth ministry for almost 5 years. Next year I am facing a transition. Not because I am leaving, but because a number of you are finishing up university and heading into the full time work world. I am excited for you and also excited for the changes it will force us to make to the youth ministry. I have never transitioned a ministry so it will be a cool new challenge for those of us who are sticking around next year.

In thinking about the changes that are to come I have reflected a lot on the role you have played in the youth ministry at PV. Some of you have been with me since I started which, in and of itself, is amazing and deserves a medal. Looking back now I know I wasn’t ready for the role. The fact that you wonderful guys and girls have stuck with me while I found my feet in leadership has been a blessing.

Whether you have been there since the beginning or since the beginning of this year and whether you are leaving or staying, I want to publically honour and thank you. I have taken our team for granted too often, but when I stop and think about it I am overwhelmed by all you have done.

I think about the ridiculous amount of hours you have given and I can’t help but smile. I often hear people say: “young adults just aren’t serving or giving to the church”… if only they knew the sacrifices you have made. But I see it. And so does God.

I think about the way you have learned to love and care for the young people (even the most challenging ones) and are now giving it your all to show them the love of Jesus. I know that you pray for them, encourage them and even worry about them. The mental and emotional energy that takes can be a exhausting but it doesn’t go unnoticed.

I think about the way you have followed me even when I haven’t been worth following or when I have lost vision and focus. You have stood by me as I have made stupid mistakes and learnt leadership lessons the hard way. Knowing you had my back made leading easier. You have taught me so much about leading people and building teams. I will be forever grateful.

I think the thing I appreciate most is that you have stuck in there when you have felt like you weren’t making a difference. Continuing on after those nights where you feel like you can’t get through to the young people and want to give up is tough, but you did it!

Here are a few (of the many) things I have learnt from you over the years:

  1. Honouring leaders even when they aren’t being honourable helps them get better quicker. There have been times when I haven’t be a leader worth following or honouring. But it was your support and how you honoured me that meant I could pick myself back up and keep going. In teaching me this you have given me a passion to do the same for those in leadership above me.
  1. Ministry is better with a team. Ministry is tough and there are days where it feels like it would be easier and quicker to do things on your own. You have proven this wrong. You take my half thought out ideas and made them 100 times better than I ever could have on my own. Your ideas, creativity and passion for shaking things up stopped me slipping into what is easy and comfortable. Now I can’t imagine doing ministry without a team. Even the toughest days in ministry are bearable when you know you aren’t in it alone.
  1. Laughter is the key to a healthy team. No matter how tired I was the next day, it was so worth all those nights I only got home around 2am after youth events or meetings when we would sit around joking and laughing. Nothing builds relationships and teams better. I don’t think anyone has made me laugh more than you!
  1. Every brilliant idea and decision made at 2am should be reassessed after a good night’s sleep. Enough said.
  1. Jesus love, forgiveness and grace are most on display through His people. We have faced challenging times as individuals and as a community. It has been my privilege to watch you face those difficult situations and people with the same love, forgiveness and grace that Jesus has shown you. You have taught me to love more deeply and forgive more quickly and that is the most precious gift!

At the risk of getting too sappy I will end with this: I appreciate you all more than words could ever say. (Writing this is just a small gesture to try and show how grateful I am). For those of you who are leaving- whatever the future holds for you I pray God’s blessings and provision for the next season of your life. For those who are staying- strap yourselves in. I have no idea what next year will look like but let’s keep seeking God together.

Much love.

Sophie xo.