Youth Ministry: Closure and Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye to the kids was predictably hard. I just didn’t know when and how it would hit me.

I cry here and there. Pregnancy and post-partum hormones have exacerbated the tendency for those tears to flow a bit. Tonight, I tried to steel myself a little so I wouldn’t seem completely insane. I planned to do communion with both groups, and spent the first half hour with the junior high kids. I hadn’t felt like I had spent as much time with them as I would have liked this year, so thought it would be “easy.” I was surprised. I suddenly felt a strangely deep connection to each one…to their present selves, and then who they would become in the future. As I watched the bread and the cup passed around with the usual giggles and perfect awkwardness, I imagined what each person would be like in four, five, six years…some would be involved with our children’s ministry and helping to teach in class, some would go on the DR trip and come back with that new light that seems to radiate from deep within, some would help in worship services either with music or being the liturgist…And I was moved. What a fresh and hopeful picture of the church. The current leaders who would be journeying with them would get to see all that emerge in the next few years…and I felt really happy that the youth had them as advocates.

When I went downstairs to do communion with the high school kids I was already a mess. I could barely hold it in. As soon as I started the prayer, my voice cracked and my nose was running. Lauren was sitting next to me and I could hear her leave the room. The group of high school students hold a special place in my heart because of how much time we have spent together in these last 4+ years…I did the reverse this time as I looked into these grown-up faces…I remembered what they were like when I first met them – goofy, innocent and sweet. I know being their pastor was my “job,” but professionalism aside, I had no idea how much I would be affected by them, how much I would be changed by them, how much I needed them, too,…to be my community. I shared a little bit about how grateful I was to them for teaching me to be a better pastor to youth, even a little bit about how to parent…and how to be passionate about life…and just for letting me journey with them. The bread and the cup was all the more poignant as we recalled together all the times we shared communion, and not just the sacrament but lunch together, coffee and bagels, candy and soda pop…more than that – all the tears, blood and sweat we tasted together.

But, I wanted to emphasize that it was the gift of Christ they gave me that impacted me the most, and that I hoped faith in Jesus would be what I would leave behind as went our separate ways. God’s spirit would surely tie us together as we are a part of the body…and that was heartening.

Yes, saying goodbye was hard, but as Andy’s dad liked to remind me it means something good to leave a little sad…

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