"Youth groups are harder to speak to than the average Sunday congregation. I learned this recently while speaking to some students. After talking for about four minutes, I noticed that there was a kid asleep in the crowd. And not just a little asleep, he was sprawled out. Teens will fall asleep if you don’t bring it instantly. They also won’t fake laugh. Adults will give you “courtesy laughs.” Not teenagers. If it ain’t funny, they ain’t laughing. Teens, in a good way, make you work for it."I encourage you to read the post on Stuff Christians Like on youth pastors here but also read the comments. It contains dozens of people thanking their youth pastor and is quite moving. Even though I did an internship working with youth before joining the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, that was hardly where I thought things would be headed if you were to have asked me in high school. Even though my family faithfully attended church on Sunday mornings and my parents set a good example for me, I was fairly ambivalent in my relationship with God. I never read the Bible, I often fell asleep in church and I rarely, if ever, talked about God with my friends.
Shortly after going away to college at Central Michigan University, I began to have a lot of questions about God and whether Christianity was all that I had been taught. In fact, I came to what author Henry Blackaby calls a "crisis of faith." I didn't have much of a relationship with God and had become discontent with life. I even began to consider other faiths and, as happens with many a college student, even thought about ditching formal religion altogether.
But fortunately for me, God had other plans. My youth pastor from high school, Gary Lundstrom, had kept up a relationship with me. Like many youth pastors, Gary was pretty cool. He rode a motorcycle. He lifted weights and could bench press more than anyone I knew. And he loved God. But not in an awkward kind of "this guy's weird" kind of way. Just a normal guy that lived for Jesus.
Gary regularly wrote to me while I was at CMU and gave me a gift subscription to a magazine that featured Christian athletes. When I entered that crisis of faith during my sophomore year, he sent me a couple of books to read. Remarkably, God used one of those books to bring me into a relationship with Himself. I committed my life to Christ right then and have not looked back since.
Gary was not the only person that had a strong spiritual on my life. My parents, as well as a few others, also had an influence but at that moment in my life, God used a youth pastor to change my life. Gary's a big wig with Samaritan's Purse now and is still showing God's love to hurting people. But I'm very grateful that God used a normal dude that loved Jesus to radically touch my life. I thank God for Gary Lundstrom and all youth pastors everywhere that lay down their lives everyday so that young people can have a relationship with God.
*Photo courtesy of ChristianWeekly.net.