Well, it is done. I did my last Tuesday as the Junior High Pastor. It was a bitter-sweet event. I lead this group for 5 years. The first 3 years were as a volunteer leader under the supervision of Steve Schlange. When Steve left I was paid and my title changed. Why? As one church leader put it, “so that new people will have confidence in our youth program that we have paid youth pastors.” I am glad to note that my 5 year stint is longer than the average youth worker (18 months to 2 years).
I will miss the kids. I will miss teaching. I look forward to working in other ministries. I look forward to doing some things with my family that I was unable to do because of ministry. Looking back over the last 5 years I want to identify some of the highlights. Sort of a Junior High Youth Group Greatest Hits
1. Starting a new ministry from scratch. Junior High had always been a part of the larger youth group. It was time for them to be treated with some respect and have their own space. How many people get to start a new ministry? I know that I may never get that opportunity again.
2. Steve Schlange the Worship leader: Steve lead worship for 2 of the five years. I don’t mean to take anything away from the others, but Steve, in my humble opinion, is one of the best worship leaders I have ever been under. I especially remember at our second winter camp that Steve and I talked out some lyrics. I have a recording of this song that Steve started to write, it was awesome. It saddens me to a degree that Steve has put up the guitar. Steve, if you are reading this, RECONSIDER!!!!!
3. Tackling Chris Norlin: Chris was my first worship leader, a small group leader, and a consummate practical jokester. Our first winter camp found Chris getting the brilliant idea of smacking me with a snow ball. Chris is very athletic. He didn’t think old, chubby, Walter could get to him. He was wrong, very wrong. I ran him down, in knee deep snow, like a cougar after a deer. I tackled him and we went horizontal in the air. Chris will probably never forget that snow bath.
4. Growing and stretching: I am not the same person I was 5 years ago. I have learned to be gracious and gentle. I have developed my creativity. I have explored what I believe and allowed the Word to refine my theology. It was not always an enjoyable experience. I had detractors, contentious leaders, rebellious students, and overbearing parents. I sometimes was the victim of other’s machinations and at other times the victim of my own creation. Praise God that he is not content to leave me the way I was.
5. Student growing up: It was just weird the first year that a student who was in junior high with me was old enough to apply to be a student leader. I love that this is part of my legacy. The tip of an iceberg that I will only know when I stand before Jehovah. It is great to see students around town and start chatting with them, catching up on what they have been doing. Well it is often a good experience. It saddens me when they have resorted to making poor choices, choices I know I taught about and encouraged them to live for Christ. Still, I haven’t had any who shun me, actually, they will come find me if they catch a glimpse of me in the store.
6. Leading students to Christ: I do not know all the students who received Christ as part of my tenure as the leader of the Junior High Ministry. I know that at about 2 or 3 made a decision each year. I have to say that this year I had the most enjoyable experience as a student came to me, we prayed, and Christ became the student’s Lord. This happened early in the year. This student has diligently sought to grow and is becoming well armed to withstand the fiery darts of the enemy as High School looms on the horizon.