Recently I left on our annual CIY Move Student Conference trip for the 16th time in my life. Five times I attended as a student in Carbondale, Illinois, once as an intern in Anderson, Indiana, a half dozen in Michigan at the beautiful Hope College as the youth pastor, another few in Cedarville, Ohio. This was the first of what I would guess to be many, a trip to Wheaton College just an hour from home.
All the while, my relationship with CIY has changed.
As a student, I looked at friends who weathered God’s grace by my side. I dreamt of staying longer in those college dorm rooms, playing games in the rec center at 3 before attending dinner at 6, starting worship by 7 and ending our night reviewing all God had done with my new found closest friends from church. It looked easy. We’d still be there today if given the option at 16 years old. Because in those moments we had everything we’d ever needed. We had found so much more in our infant relationships with God than we ever expected when we left.
Then We Went Home
Then it was time to leave the conference and head home. For some of those friends, they’ll never go back.
As a youth pastor, there have been moments that it seemed as though the only progress God made in the lives of students came when I entrusted them to the leadership of the Christ in Youth staff. As a ministry, we would work, call, fundraise and plead to get students to attend. We would feel that this was our only shot for students to experience God’s love in a tangible way.
At other times, if I’m being honest, I’ve poured out the same amount of effort only to have students return looking at me as puzzled as to who God is and what He’s done as the day we left. In those moments I scoured the internet and student ministry contacts hoping for a better option. Like an unhappy consumer review, I was ready to run out the door and take my business elsewhere.
I’ve Never Left
I suppose you could say I’ve mellowed or matured. I no longer find myself shook by the trip attendance or the financing of how we will get there. My dependence on the CIY staff and content has subsided. Instead I’ve found assurance in the team of adults we bring along with us. Our team, our student ministry family, serves students through prayer and patience while bridging the gap between stage and seat, gospel and heart.
I love our team and I love our students. I love CIY Move and the opportunity it provides, and at 16 years old, I thought it looked easy. Load a bus, drive, listen, laugh, hug, cry, and repeat. But “ignorance isn’t a virtue” and my eyes are open wide to the truth that none of this is easy. Life change, or salvation, came on the back of the perfect Jesus when he went to the cross for our sin and shame and was resurrected to new life making a way for all of us to have the same. And now, Jesus himself has seen fit to entrust such responsibility of communicating this good news through the likes of youth pastors like me, volunteers like Jerry, Brittany, and Tim, moms like Jill, and student interns like Adi and Bryce, and probably even you.
It’s not easy;
“He who knew no sin became sin” -2 Corinthians 5:21
“He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:8
but it’s worth it!