Youth Pastors are Heroes

Read this blog tonight at www.timschraeder.com: Tim Schraeder is passionately committed to helping churches effectively communicate the message of the Gospel in a way that’s relevant to our ever-changing culture. He’s served churches as a communications director for over a decade, most recently serving on staff at Park Community Church. Today, he serves the Church as a part of the team Church Solutions Group and as the co-director of the Center for Church Communication. He’s the creator and general editor of Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication, a field guide for church communication leaders. Tim lives in downtown Chicago where he can be found in any neighborhood coffeeshop that has free wifi.

supermanOver ten years ago I began my journey in church communication never dreaming I would have the privilege of doing what I’m doing today. The journey began long before I was 18 years old, though. It began thanks to a couple of youth pastors who saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.

I WAS THAT AWKWARD, SHY KID IN YOUTH GROUP…

I grew up attending church and my life revolved around my youth group. I was very insecure, socially awkward, chubby, and didn’t play sports. Even though I felt out of place at school and with peers, my youth group was a place where I felt like I belonged.

In my early days of junior high I had a few great youth pastors: Jeff, James, Dave, and Troy [my family switched churches, hence the large amount of youth pastors in a short time-frame]. Each one of them made me feel like I mattered and showed me that God cared about me.

I didn’t really enjoy being up in front groups of people and had no musical talent whatsoever [typical ways people serve in youth group], but I did love to write and liked to design things. One of my favorite toys as a child was a typewriter!

WHEN I WAS 13, MY YOUTH PASTOR ERIC GAVE ME A GREAT GIFT: HE SHOWED ME HOW TO USE PAGEMAKER.

Eric, like most youth pastors, was underpaid for the invaluable work he did, so to supplement his income he did graphic design on the side. He took time to show me around my first Mac and let me do graphic design for our youth group.

About a year later, Eric and his wife left our church and I found myself with a new set of youth pastors: Chad and Amy. I jumped right in with them and nearly every day after school you could find me volunteering at the church. Every summer I had the typical summer job, but I would arrange my schedule so my daytime hours would be spent in the church office.

My senior year of high school I did a co-op work program spending half of the day attending classes at my Christian high school and the other half of the day working at my church. I went a little overboard that year and missed the maximum number of days allowed to be missed in a school year: 40. Each of those 40 days were spent working in the church office. I loved being there and loved serving, even to the detriment of my grade point average.

Those days after school and summers spent in the church office enlarged my heart for the local church and confirmed the calling I had felt God had put on my life. My youth pastors showed me that God could use my gifts and talents in graphic design and writing to serve the church. At the time I had no idea how much those early experiences and opportunities would radically alter the trajectory of my life.

Since Bible colleges aren’t known for creating great graphic designers, I took the non-traditional route and began my career in church communication right after I graduated high school [with the encouragement of my youth pastors].

I GUESS YOU COULD SAY THE REST IS HISTORY.

My life has been shaped and influenced by the faithful investment my youth pastors made in my life. I cannot image how different my life would be without them. I was just an awkward youth group kid who was a bit of a nerd. And today, the opportunities and influence I have are a testimony to the influence my youth pastors had in my life.

To Eric & Cherie Robbins, Chad & Amy Fagerland, James Patacsil, Jeff Woods, Dave Jane, and Troy Vanderburg… thank you. I am where I am today because of you. I am so grateful for you and for the way you faithfully modeled what it means to follow Christ. Thank you for seeing something in me that I didn’t see in myself and thank you for giving me the chance to serve the church at a young age. I know you all made huge sacrifices and have faced different challenges, but know for me and many others you made a difference. You’re my heroes.

SOME WORDS TO YOUTH PASTORS…

Thank you for the work you do. You’re heroes.

You have no idea what an impact you are making in the lives of the students you serve.

I know you give so much and I’m sure sometimes it feels like you get so little back in return. I know it’s a burden to carry and cannot imagine what it would be like to manage unruly teenagers. I know most of you are underpaid and under-thanked. And I know that it’s hard to see impact of the work you do when you are in the trenches of youth ministry every single day. So, use my story as a small testimony of the great work you are doing. You have no idea what a difference you can make.

The work you do matters.

Thank you.

I was just a quiet kid on the fringes of my youth group and I’m grateful for the youth pastors who took the time show me that my life and my talents mattered. I hope you’ll each do the same for the quiet shy kids in your youth groups, too.

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