By James Lee

At 36 years old, I’m an old man doing a young man’s job.

I’m aware that the majority reading this probably just scoffed at me.

I get it.

36 years on this earth isn’t really a long time. Some people have dinnerware older than me! But in youth ministry, 36 is old. I googled “how long do youth pastors last?” (yes, googled is actually a word now). The full-time youth pastor averages 4 years and the bi-vocational pastor averages just under 2 years. That means that if youth ministry is a first profession, then most don’t get past 26 years old before they move on and become real pastors. I started my youth ministry internship back in 2001 and haven’t looked back since. I love what I do. 18 years later and this sentiment isn’t lost…I’m working in my dream job.

There are ways that I try to cover up my age. I wear crew socks with my Nike slides. I don’t say “sneakers,” I say “kicks.” I don’t call people, I only text. And I use a face serum as part of my morning routine to keep the wrinkles away.

I don’t really do any of those things, because relevancy doesn’t keep me in youth ministry. What keeps me in youth ministry is the absolute joy of seeing young people encounter a Living God. Just imagine a 14-year old, pimple-faced boy telling you how he wants to live out Philippians 3:8, and then shows you the verse because he had spent the last night re-writing it in his own calligraphy. That’s not a hypothetical situation, and I have that calligraphy hanging in my office to prove it.

Jesus is encountering young people, and they are following Him.

On November 9, we participated in the Chicago-Land Alliance Youth worship night (CLAY).  Our denomination is organized into regional and ethnic districts. Most cities have Alliance churches that represent either a regional district or an ethnic district. But CLAY gathered 200 young people that covered 5 different districts/associations (Midwest, Hmong, Vietnamese, Spanish Central, and Chinese). This was an incredibly diverse group of young people coming around the centrality of Jesus Christ. Imagine hearing all these people from such different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, come together and sing “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.”

Again, Jesus is encountering young people, and they are following Him.

Maybe as you read that, you can join young people and sing that same hymn this morning. Maybe we need to sing that hymn each and every morning.

Jesus Christ is the core value of the Wellspring Youth Ministry. From Him come our two other core values: community and compassion. At Wellspring, we want to cultivate and nurture young people who know they are impossibly loved by Jesus, and faithfully love Him in community as compassionate people, everywhere.

Would you join me in this endeavor? Pray for the youth. Pray for their souls. Pray for their parents. Pray for the upcoming winter retreat (February 14-17), that it would be a fresh encounter with the Living God. And if the Lord puts it on your heart, serve.
Join in caring for the youth. You’re not too old! Young people don’t need someone who is relevant, they need someone who is willing to love them and hear them.

Join in caring for their parents. All parents, regardless of the age of their kids, need encouragement! They need a pat on the back, a prayer partner, and someone who is willing to hear how hard it is to raise a young person in this current culture.

Lastly, for those that didn’t believe the whole calligraphy thing, here’s a picture: