To all the youth leaders...thank you!
Originally posted on The Mothership Blog.
By Elly Thielen
Most recently a dear friend of ours passed away. She was such a light. From a young age, Jan and Tim both took an interest in me. Not just me though. They saw value in all of the youth. They encouraged us, told us hard truths, stayed up late to keep us honest on trips, and always provided a welcoming smile and face when our paths would cross again. She is a bright light that will surely be missed. What a legacy of a servanthood, encouragement, support, and example of what a faith filled person emanates. Today she will be laid to rest and I will surely see others that ALSO served valiantly in our youth ministry. And to them I am ever thankful. Here (in a recent post from Our Blog called What Advice Can We Offer New Youth Ministry Volunteers?) are some words from Jan and Tim as they shared how important the youth program was for them.
I was part of a youth program at Westwood United Methodist Church that I am for certain helped support me and guide me through my high school and college years. It gave me a community when I didn't find one at my school. It gave me mentors that I STILL keep in touch with to this day. It created a space for empathy, serving, and learning about Jesus.
While my mother and countless other parents helped in the ministry, many of the volunteers gave freely of their Sundays and had NO connection to children in the program. I want them to know, all their efforts were not lost. As I now have children of my own and understand the demands of family life and how precious my time is...it makes me well up with complete and utter thankfulness that so many wonderful adults poured into us on a weekly basis. The opportunities that were provided to me because of the ministry, I could find no where else.
My close friends that I still see are a product of that youth group. Meeting my husband is because of friends from that youth group. The trips and people we served on missions trips are forever embedded in my brain. I can only hope and pray that as my children grow older, others also step forward and pour into them. To find a safe space for my children to be vulnerable with friends and adults that will pray for them, people that they can go to when talking to their parents seems too heavy, will be nothing short of an answered prayer.
If you have ever been on the fence to serving in a youth ministry, I say JUST TRY IT. I guarantee you will not regret it. Tim serves in our youth ministry, I feel, because he knew how important that ministry was to us. He has such awesome relationships with so many of the kids. The relationships we have made with the leaders are priceless. And because he serves in the youth, the familiarity my children have with the counselors they see at the yearly summer camp - the youth group - makes it so much easier for me to leave my child for a few days. Knowing they are in the hands of people who love, care, and KNOW them and will be pouring seeds of faith. We are some BUSY people and we have children, and yet Tim makes time for this ministry. I know some seasons he is able to give more of his time than others, but making it a priority is important to him. I'm not saying it won't be difficult, but the seeds that can be planted, the opportunities to lift up our generation when they are about to fly the coupe and be on their own, will ALL be for gain.
As a youth that was forever changed by a youth program, I say find one that works for your child! We love our church home and the program they have fostered. Our next generation is hungry for love and support - they need Jesus and they most certainly can find him in you.
Thanks Jan, and so many others for loving me well.
Elly is one of those people that had the privilege of growing up in the church. She has memories of walking to and from church with her brother and sisters each week. She is married to Tim and they have three young children. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelors in Early Childhood Education. Elly and her family are active at Vineyard Church Northwest where her and her family worship, serve, and grow. She serves in the two year olds program and helps run an event for Moms four times a year. Elly and her husband also lead Financial Peace University. Find out more about Elly on her blog The Mothership.