adam mclane, ys’s online community czar (or something like that), has had a running series of posts on the ys blog over the last couple months of ys staff telling their own youth group stories. i finally got around to answering adam’s questions, and he posted this bit about my own story:
Mark Oestreicher (everyone calls him Marko) is the President of Youth Specialties. As you would suspect, as the President he’s technically in charge of everything we do here. The best way you can follow what Marko is up to is to subscribe to his blog, ysmarko.com. Recently, I had the chance to hear a little bit about Marko’s experience in youth group.
What was the name of your youth group?
we didn’t have a name! I don’t think any youth groups had names back in the dark ages. But I do remember that the basement of the church, occasionally flooded and always moldy smelling, was where we met, and was called “The Hub”. It was filled with groovy carpet squares on the floor (easy to replace after the next flooding) and youth-created psychedelic painting on the walls.
Do you remember the first time you went to youth group? What was it like?
my older sisters were in the youth group, and I couldn’t wait to get in it. When I was in junior high, we weren’t part of the youth group (that changed when I was in high school, and my church hired a full-time junior high pastor long before that was a normal thing to do). The youth group really became the social center of my life. All my friendships and activities revolved around that group (and my high school choir!).
Tell us about your youth leader.
my high school pastor had a huge impact on my life. His name is steve andrews, and he’s the pastor of a large church in the detroit area now. He took a personal interest in me, and invested a lot of time in me. There’s no question that I’m in youth ministry, all these years later, in great part because of steve. Many of my friends have similar stories.
Share a memory of an activity you did as a group.
I’ll never forget the awkwardness of a junior high retreat that was all about sex. It was extra uncomfortable for me, because I had a massive crush on a girl who attended who was obviously more, uh, advanced (shall we say) than I was. I remember walking down the railroad tracks with her, and casually asking her, “So… What do you think about what the speaker’s talking about?”
What’s one thing that you learned in youth group that has stuck with you since graduation?
I’ll never forget when Terry Prisk, the youth pastor when I was in junior high (and now a pastor of a church in brighton, MI), stopped me in the hallway of the church and said, “Oestreicher, you’d make a great youth pastor someday.” I remember the exact spot, and can perfectly recreate it in my mind, even though that building has since been leveled and turned into a strip mall and condos.
If you could relay a message to your old youth pastor, what would it be?
thanks for believing in me, and holding onto the hope and belief that God was at work in my life, even when outward evidence may have been to the contrary.