This school year I started my 21st year in youth ministry. It’s hard for me to believe it’s been that long. But when I see some of my former youth on Facebook and they are married and have kids, I’m reminded that it’s been a long time since they were in my youth group when they were in middle school. One of the
advantages of doing this so long is that I’m used to the rhythm of the church calendar. Even though we change up the ministry often, and every year we get new 6th graders, I still feel like I have a good grasp of what to expect. Until this year. This year is just different for me. Cassidy, my oldest daughter, is in 6th grade this year and is of course starting youth. Don’t get me wrong- it’s not something that has thrown me off my game- but it is different.
Truthfully, I have been looking forward to this for a while. I’m the kind of parent who has really enjoyed all of the stages of childhood in our children. I’m not one that wants to keep them young. I love that Cassidy gets to experience all of the things we do in youth group with me. Now Cassidy would say she’s been in youth group all her life. She went on her first mission trip when she was 4 months old, and at a year old she went to Mexico on a youth mission trip. She’s been at our house for almost every Bible study and has been around teenagers her whole life. But she will admit that it is different now that she is a youth. She loves being able to go to the Jr. high girls Bible studies on Thursday nights. She enjoys coming to the Sunday school class I lead where she gets to learn from me, not just as her father, but as her youth minister. It’s only been a couple months so sometimes I catch myself being surprised she’s in there.
I love having her in youth ministry. I get excited thinking about the trips I’ll get to take her on and the things we’ll get to experience together. We are both looking forward to the next time we go to Haiti in June of 2020 when we can go together. Cassidy has always loved helping other people and her heart of missions is obvious. It’ll be fun getting to see these experiences in new light through her eyes.
But there is no denying that this year is different for me. I’ve been around teenagers for many years, but as every parent of a teenager tells me, it’s just different having one of your own. Teenage years, especially middle school, can be tough. But so far having her in youth group has been great. I have no doubt that at times it will be tough. But that may just be preparing me for when her younger sister starts youth group in a few years!