When I made the switch from public school teacher to my role as Director of Youth and Family Ministries here at All Saints’, an initial feeling was one of relieved pressure. Finally, the days, weeks, and months of preparing students to perform well on one test on one day of their life was lifted. No longer would I have to cradle the disappointed on the arbitrary measure of worth they’d be given at the end of their state tests. No longer would I have to sit in a meeting and be shown the numbers of every way in which I had failed to grow students to a level deemed worthy by my superiors. Happy Day!
Then I was reminded that, while there is no state test at the end of this new field of teaching, there was the matter of the children’s eternal souls.
You know, no pressure.
This is the dichotomy that comes with serving the church and serving God. How can it be true that we will be forgiven for making any sort of human mistake, while also feeling the pressure of “I can’t disappoint God!” It might not make logical sense, but logic has never been clearly present in matters of the heart and soul.
The youth and I have been preparing to bring a beautiful Youth Sunday service for you all this Sunday. As we’ve prepared, I’ve felt like I was reliving the experience of realizing I was responsible for the eternal souls of our youth.
I witnessed this incredible rush of excitement, “I want to serve as Acolyte! I want to serve as Usher! Oh, oh! I want to give the sermon! I want to be Rev. Nancy!” and as the depth of that sunk in, the terror became visible in the big, round eyes. Smiles turned to pursed lines of stress. They inevitably look to me with the tacit question: “Oh no. What if I screw it up?”
We’ve walked through the programs for each service, practiced our roles, spoken into microphones, and rehearsed with each other. The youth are nervous but excited to be part of what they know to be a meaningful service for all of you. They know it’s meaningful to you for one reason: it’s meaningful to them.
And what a terrific reminder that these youth, many of whom have never participated or even witnessed a Youth Sunday, are passionate in their desire to serve, serve well, and to be meaningful participants in our community of faith. A terrific reminder that we allow the fear of judgement to interrupt heartfelt and dedicated service. A reminder that God sees our souls, not our mistakes. A reminder to give ourselves the same encouragement and grace that we are given in our walk with Jesus.
I feel so invigorated. I believe that once our young people feel the joy and fulfillment in their service to you and to God this Sunday, they will look more frequently and fervently for places to be active participants in all the ways All Saints’ worships.