We are kicking off a new part of the MOTC Blog today called “My Story“.  MOTC has the pleasure of working with churches of all sizes and from all denominations.  The goal of “My Story” is to allow opportunities for our Student Ministers to connect with one another.  This is a chance to share your own experience within youth ministry, describe what you are seeing within your own group, and to connect directly with our other ministry partners.  Our plan is to devote 2 wednesdays a month to “My Story” and see where it goes from there.  We’re excited about the potential this has to become a resource for any Student Ministry and about the opportunity to introduce our ministry partners to one another!

I’m really excited about this first “My Story” entry.  Brandi Manes, the youth pastor at Gracepointe Church in Franklin TN, kicks us off with her story about how she came to be in vocational ministry and shares a little about her own philosophy of ministry. 

I was sitting on a bench in downtown Nashville during a laser tag lock-in. I had just rolled my ankle by trying to run backwards up a ramp and was trying to sooth my injuries with mass quantities of Dr. Pepper. Not generally the kind of moment you think will change your life. Then my pastor sat down next to me and asked, “Sooo… how attached are you to your job?” They wanted a youth pastor. I loved teenagers but had no real ministry experience of any kind. We decided to give it a go.

I was terrified. TERRIFIED. I had no idea what I was doing. How do you teach Sunday school? How do you find good adult leaders? What kind of people do we want them to be when they graduate? What if I say something wrong? What if they don’t believe it? What if I don’t always believe it? What if they have questions I can’t answer? What if I have questions I can’t answer?

I’ve tried a lot of things over the past few years. Some have worked. Some have definitely not. But one thing has always been successful: community. More than teaching, more than great events, more than a fancy youth service, students need community.  They need a place. A safe place where they can be themselves and have doubts and find comfort and support. Do they need information? Yes, absolutely. Will they forget the bulk of what we teach them? Yes, absolutely. But that’s okay.

When you lose the pressure to be right all the time, you make room for conversation. If we operate from the idea that our job is not to feed them the right answers but to help them discover God and their relationship with him for themselves, we lose the fear of being wrong. We will definitely be wrong sometimes. But when the relationship comes first you don’t lose trust in your wrong-ness.

Graduation is not a deadline. We don’t just get six or seven years to cram as much theology into their brains as possible and get them convinced to stick with it. Instead, I think we are given the opportunity to walk alongside our students for a few years of what will hopefully be a lifelong faith journey. What they believe will change. What matters most to them will change. God is big enough to be in all of that with them. He is big enough to handle their questions and their frustrations and their uncertainties, just like he handles our questions and frustrations and uncertainties.

All we have to offer students is our story. Our experience. If we are connected to the person of Jesus and doing our best to know him and to put the greatest commandment into practice by loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves, our students will see that. They will trust it. And, hopefully, they will try to do the same.

They have a lifetime to work out the details. My goal is to set them up to see church and faith as a safe place to be who God created them to be and figure out what that means for them and their community. That will serve them well long after they leave the youth group. 

 


Brandi Manes is the youth pastor at GracePointe Church in Franklin, TN (
www.gracepointe.net). She’s been working with teenagers ever since she stopped being one and wonders every day how she gets to have such an awesome job. You can find her on twitter @brandi_an or read her sporadically updated blog at www.rmfo-blogs.com/brandi.