Note: A former youth pastor (now serving at another church in a different kind of staff position) shared this story with us. We have changed the names and some details for the privacy of all involved. We published Part I last week.
Brad had moved his family out of state to take a new position. After a couple of years there, he found himself let go from his position overnight. Brad and his wife Andrea, deeply wounded by events, moved back to his home church. We pick up the story there.
Brad says, “Fast-forward about a year after us getting plugged back into our home church. I was trying to work through some of the bitterness toward my former leader as well as another staff member that was part of this decision of us being let go.”
He continues, “One night over dinner, a friend asked me if I had a passion for youth ministry. I responded ‘Yes, of course’.”
He said, “Well, Brad, I honestly don’t think you are called to do youth ministry.”
Since this was a friend, Brad listened, even though the question reminded him of his former church leaders telling him he was not called to youth ministry.
The friend continued, “If you had a choice between a room full of teens doing those crazy games you like to play with youth groups or be in a room full of adult folks who are getting close to taking a step of faith in Christ, which would you prefer?”
Brad says, “I began to cry as we were eating our wings. I wanted to be in the room full of those adult ‘baby Christians’.”
“This conversation impacted me deeply. I began to reflect and eventually realized that, in the past, I assumed for various reasons that I was called to youth ministry. Now I am blessed to serve in a church that is growing and full of adult baby Christians and ‘almost there’ folks. I love it!”
This is one of the reasons I love Brad’s story. Though he was not treated fairly and the disappointment hurt deeply, yet he still had the willingness to learn something about himself from the bad experience.
Brad says, “I now realizes that the church had wanted me to focus on the students already in the church. However, my focus at the time had been on students outside the church.”
In his words, “Somehow I just never picked up on that during the interviewing process or any time during my work there.”
By the way, let me make this clear. I am not saying that Brad’s former leaders handled his situation well at all. It seems their decision to simply dump Brad was based more on church politics than true concern for his calling.
Here’s the point: rejection, disappointment, betrayal or simple lack of support from those we love and respect hurts very deeply. It can take time to heal. Still, one aspect of our healing and God’s redemptive work through those circumstances resides in our ability to learn some things about ourselves – maybe even uncomfortable things – through reflection.
In the end, God redeems all suffering by making something good come out of it. One of the good things can be greater personal insight.
There’s more to Brad’s story and the healing he and Andrea have experienced. I will share the remainder of it next week.