Short Interviews But Great Stories.
By Brent Dearnell
We as ministry leaders are busy. Busy doing ministry. To busy to remember the power of our student's story! I recently interviewed two students from different churches, that live in different parts of the city, with different families, different past experiences, and different hopes for the future. However, the power does not come from their differences. The power of these interviews came from how Jesus Christ, through the work of the local church, is helping these students have love, faith, and hope!
"When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love." - 1 Corinthians 13:11-13
Let's hear from a senior in high school named Sam.
Sam, how did you end up at church?
I have been going to church since before I can remember. Getting baptized as a baby to sitting in Sunday school for pretty much my entire childhood. Me ending up at church was never a question. Sunday mornings was time to go and learn about what Jesus did for us when he was on the earth and up in heaven. Then my family, as a whole, started to miss church and stopped getting involved when our pastor left our home church. We went through a phase where we just didn’t go because of swimming and other things we had going on. A couple years ago we moved churches. We started driving a forty-five-minute drive just to go to the church that pastor had moved to. My family loved listening to his sermons and got back into going, it was just hard on a Sunday morning to drive all the way out there. Just this past fall we moved back to our home church because we still knew people that went there, a new pastor was coming in and it was a lot closer of a drive. It was great to come back to a place where my brother and I had a youth group and people that lived in this area to connect our faith too. So to get back to the question, how did I end up at church? It was deciding to go to a church that we already loved and getting to be who I am in a place that can help me grow my faith. Also, recently I had taken control of my faith, so I love to come and learn about how the church can help me grow as a young adult.
How are you active in your faith currently?
I am active in my faith by choosing to get up on a Sunday and going to church. I worship on stage for our elementary school kids most Sundays, which is by far one of the most amazing things I have gotten to do since I have come back to my home church. Taking the time to talk to adults and students about my faith and have become more comfortable about sharing my views and still understanding that others religion/views are great and fantastic, in their own ways. Getting involved with the student ministry and taking the time to meet and connect with the younger kids that I have never gotten to experience. Joining a High School Boost group that I know the other high schoolers are feeling a lot of the same feelings that I am facing. All these things have made my faith what it is now and so grateful for what it has become because of the people that have helped me along the way.
Why are you active in your faith community?
I do this because it makes me feel good. I had a pretty rough patch in my life going through things that I have had to deal with. About 5 years ago, I came out to my parents that I was gay. Lots of things happened with that and sent me into a pit of darkness. I started to struggle with a couple questions. Why was I made this way? What did I do wrong? And How can I fix it? Between help from past pastors, friends and parents I learned that 1.) nothing was wrong with me and God created me just how I was supposed to be. 2.) God made me this way because that is what is best for me and for the people around me. 3.) I don’t need to be fixed. I spent a lot of time contemplating that last thing. I am perfect the way and am and who I am. That is hard to understand when you are told from a young age that being gay is against the Bible. That gay people aren’t going to go to heaven and that they will never be accepted by the church. Between that and getting involved with the church made me realize that I am where I am now because I had to deal with that at a young age. I took that and wanted to become a role model for other kids who are struggling with the same types of situations. I am active in my faith community because if I can help one kid by dancing on a stage Sunday morning to just connecting bridges from the LGBTQ+ community to the church to show that not all churches are evil and out to get them. That would be the greatest reward and the best reason to be involved in the faith community, for me.
What do I wish others my age knew about my church?
That no matter where you are in your faith journey or not even started that my church is one of the most accepting places for a student to come and learn more about what faith could mean to them. I have just been back for a short time but have learned that if you want to be involved in this Jesus thing, IT IS POSSIBLE for everyone.
How has my participation in church prepared me for what comes next?
For me personally, the next step in my life is that after I graduate high school, I head off to college. I get to spread my wings and fly to a whole new world where I become and individual and make my own decisions. Church prepared me by giving me the tools to stay connected to my faith and not just let it disappear after I leave home. The ability to go into a new church and see what I can do besides just being a broke college student. That if I get too stressed or just need help I have created a group of people back home that I can call and figure out life. Also, the resources and attitude to share what I have learned my first part of my life and take it with me to wherever life takes me next.
The Holy Spirit in moving in and through our students. Sometimes their testimony is exactly what we as leaders need to hear on those discouraging days. Come back to read Part II of A Tale Of Two Students!
Rev. Brent Dearnell
Brent is married to Sara and is a father to four young children. He has served as a volunteer, interim, and full-time youth pastor, discipleship pastor, and executive pastor. Before going into ministry full-time he was a middle school teacher in an urban environment as well as a varsity soccer coach. He is passionate about helping young people live into their passion, faith, and call. This passion is why he is one of the cofounders of Colocate Ministry Consulting and serves as one of our coaches.