I recently resigned from my position as a youth pastor. Goodbyes are always hard, especially when your job is wholly about relationships. The relationships I built with my students will hopefully continue. I know I plan on keeping up with them and attending some of their school events, and they have already invited me to their games. So, these aren’t true “goodbyes”. Instead, they are simply “so long for now”. We’ll see each other around, and, as Christians, we’ll see each other when we’re reunited with our Lord Jesus Christ one day.
On Pastor Appreciation Sunday, a church member and friend gave me an Armor of God coin to show their appreciation for all that I’ve done for our student ministry and the church. Being a pastor, especially a youth pastor is often a thankless job. We pour our hearts into our studies, lessons, and other people. It’s not that people aren’t appreciative, but when you are constantly pouring yourself out for others, it can be exhausting. Youth pastors are often overlooked during Pastor Appreciation Sunday because people usually simply only think of the head pastor. You know, the one that preaches in front of everyone every Sunday. So, this sign of appreciation was greatly appreciated by me.
As I said before, we pour our lives out for others, and sometimes we don’t know if we’ve made an impact or difference in others’ lives. This coin helps to show that I have. Not that I or any pastor does this for gifts or appreciation, but it is nice to be appreciated sometimes. Since I’ve resigned, I have also received texts and videos from my students thanking me for everything I’ve done for them. It’s nice to know that I’ve made an impact in their lives and my time there hasn’t been a waste. I have enjoyed getting to know them and look forward to continue to see them grow.
I have seen pastors, student pastors, and youth pastors come and go. In every case, there is always a percentage that will leave the church because that person left. It’s not their fault. They didn’t tell them to leave or dragged them with them. There are cases of pastors and youth pastors splitting churches taking people with them to another church. But even when someone simply leaves because of a new opportunity or something, some people will leave the church as well. A majority of the time it is because they were rooted in their relationship with the person instead of Christ. If we are rooted in Christ, then we will be part of His church wherever He leads us no matter the circumstances. Even when a leader leaves, we will stay in that church community because that is where Christ has placed us to serve Him and the world.
It has always been my primary goal to help people find their identity, hope, and foundation in Christ. Yes, my relationship with them helps them to find a relationship with Christ, but if they’re wholly rooted in our relationship together, then I have failed them. We all need to be solidly rooted in Christ. I never want to leave a church only to see my students stop going and growing in Christ. I truly believe this is a sign of failure. I can’t help but to take this personally and to the heart.
Thankfully, God has blessed me with some amazing students. I have seen them grow in Christ. Some have stepped out in obedience to finally be baptized declaring their promise to follow Christ wherever He leads. Some have found a new life and hope in Christ. Others have become bold in Christ being willing to share the Gospel with others. I know they’ll continue being active in the student ministry and growing in their relationship with Christ.
So, while goodbyes may be hard, I know I have done my part in leading students to follow Christ with all of their hearts. I have been honored to be part of their lives and to witness the Holy Spirit working in their lives.