I am writing this as a way to sum up what the youth internship at Church Street has meant to me.
When I started talking to Jenny about the youth internship she told me there was one huge thing to keep in mind: youth ministry will wreck you. I couldn’t wrap my head around what that would mean at the time, but I jumped head first into this job when Jenny had Cooper. I went into this job thinking I would get some teaching experience and go on the retreats that I had loved attending as a students. I received so much more than a line on a resume and a few weekends off campus. I expected to teach the lesson each week, maybe have some laughs with the students, then go home. I didn’t know I would go home and tell my roommates about the incredible answers youth would share at Nightlife. I didn’t know I would lay awake worrying about them. I didn’t know I would feel so proud when they came to church talking about the soccer game their team won, or the play they got that part in, or the driving test they passed. I didn’t know I would love them so much sometimes it makes me cry.
Over time, Church Street started to feel like the home it was for me as a youth again. I tried plenty of campus ministries and other churches in college, but none ever felt truly like home for me. I went into being the youth intern with a lot of assumptions about what I thought I would get out of it and what I thought I could offer.
It took me a year at this internship to know what Jenny meant about youth ministry wrecking a person. I was going thru the photos for the legacy wall being set up after the youth area renovation. I started with the oldest digital photos on file from around 2004. I saw the smiling faces of so many people I grew up with. I saw all of the braces phases and home tie-dyed shirts. I kept getting distracted thinking about how all of these people were out in the world living their lives now. Most of them were in college or working, some were getting married, a few were traveling the world. All of them started out as silly brace-faced middle schoolers learning about the love of Jesus. They sat in the same rooms for Nightlife and went on the same retreats I had. Through those pictures, I watched all of my peers grow up. I realized that the the legacy of Church Street was this opportunity in youth to offer students what home feels like. I grew up with so many incredible people at Church Street. People who went out into the world with a solid foundation of how home felt: full of love, grace, and support. Home feels like safety and people who ask about your sports and arts. Home feels like people who point you to Jesus when you feel lost. Home feels like people leaning in and loving you in your most awkward years when you don’t even know who you are. This internship gave me the gift of seeing the whole picture. I got to be a part of this legacy of people who are loved by this group. Then I got to come back and give love to new students.
I finally get what Jenny meant. Youth ministry wrecks you because it cracks open your heart and lets everyone in. It wrecks you because you feel every high and low with the youth. It wrecks you because it has to feel like the way Jesus loves us all and always
has room to love a few more. Youth ministry showed me that there is always room for another person to find out what home feels like.
I am not sure how to end this except to say thank you. Thank you to all of the people who volunteer with Church Street Youth for being so loving and supportive. Thank you to these students for welcoming a me into there lives. Thank you to Jenny for giving me a chance to be wrecked in the very best way by youth ministry.