i met marvin this past weekend. we chatted after i led a youth leader workshop at a salvation army youth retreat.
marvin is roughly 60 years-old; a handsome african american man with fantastic salt-and-pepper hair, a warm smile, and eyes full of life. i asked him to tell me about the youth ministry he was involved in. he told me this story:
for 30 years, i was involved in different sorts of youth ministry. for 20 years, i worked for the chicago board of education as a disciplinarian. it was tough work, but occasionally very rewarding. so many of the kids i was working with hung out at the same park; so when the park manager position opened up there, i moved over to the parks department and took that role for 10 more years. i spent time with teens from the neighborhood who hung out at the park (they often had less-than-positive activities in mind and motion).
when the salvation army opened up a rehab center in the neighborhood, i decided it was time for a change. they asked me what i wanted to do, and i said, “anything that doesn’t involve teenagers.”
they put me in maintenance. and i hated it.
i didn’t hate it because of the work–maintenance work was just fine with me. i hated it because–as much as i thought i was completely done working with teenagers–i couldn’t escape my calling.
after two years, i shifted jobs again and became the chaplain of the rehab center. and in that role, i’ve also launched a youth ministry. we’re just ninety days into it at this point, and the kids don’t trust me yet. we have about 27 of them coming, but only 2 were willing to join me this weekend. but we’re making progress. and i love it! i’m starting all over again.
as soon as marvin got to the part of his story where he re-engaged his youth ministry calling, he started beaming a massive smile and quite literally radiating energy.
let’s be honest: youth ministry isn’t for everyone. but when you align with your calling–vocationally or avocationally–you are living the best life: a life of congruence. it the glove fits, you must submit.