I went to college to be a teacher. That’s what I did for three years. I worked with some pretty tough kids who had really difficult backgrounds and stories. Every day I would see them walk into my classroom and my goal was always that they walked out feeling like everything was going to be ok and just a little bit better about themselves.
I’m fairly comfortable saying I wasn’t a great teacher. My lesson plans were always disorganized and the day to day planning of content, scope and sequence, and details was not something I was good at. But, I’m also very comfortable saying that I was really great at engaging students, making them feel cared for, being approachable, and always willing to help.
My last year of teaching I also was an intern at a church in Southern California. That year as I did both jobs I really felt the role in the church suited my gifts better than the classroom. That summer the youth pastor resigned and I was asked me to become the interim. Leaving the classroom was not difficult but leaving the students and the relationships I had at school was really hard.
Fast forward: For the past 18 years I have worked full-time in the church world as some sort of youth pastor. My roles began to change the longer I did it and I found myself moving into bigger and bigger positions that required more and more meetings, planning and details. All of the things that I admitted earlier I wasn’t great at in my teaching world were now in my job description again. I also found that I began to be less and less connected to students. To be transparent though it wasn’t the fault of the churches where I worked. My gradual disconnection from students had a lot of contributing factors but the biggest one was my own struggle to manage all the plates I had started spinning and the roles I had chosen.
In April I left my pastoral role at the church. I love that church and they were so great in helping me lean into where God was leading me. I looked into a number of different things but funny enough none of them worked out. In June a friend, who is the pastor of a small church, asked me if I would consider being the part-time summer interim youth director. I said yes and jumped in. And I loved it.
When your youth group fits in your car you can do many great things easily. When you only have a few students you can get to know them on a deeper level. When there are no committees, few meetings and flexible responsibilities you can relax and enjoy. So I did that for the summer and now it’s December and I’m still doing it.
Then God did something that I’m guessing he is still laughing about. I was offered a teaching job at the local high school. And not just any teaching job. I’m creating a whole new program for students who have struggled in the past or are currently struggling to pass classes. From scratch I’m building a whole program to give them as my principal calls it “a little tender loving care.” Every day I go to school and I basically just care for students and help them navigate their lives while encouraging them to succeed. It’s pretty much taken all the things I used to be so good at and given me an opportunity to remember those gifts God gave me and feel good about using them.
In another total God thing all the pieces of being a teacher that I wasn’t great at 20 years ago are completely non-issues now because I found I was just living in the wrong era for my brain. With computers, the internet and online organizational tools I’m actually so much more efficient and prepared for what I’m doing.
My perspective about youth ministry has been renewed as I now see how much influence, connections and time teachers have with their students every day. The school is a hugely influential place in the lives of students and we need to better figure out how to partner with teachers and others in that world.
Way to flip things around God. I’m back where I started which is back where You used me most.
Allow God to use you when and where you are. Seek Him and make yourself available to be used by Him. He has plans, and it may be years before those plans are revealed to us or make sense to us, but we need to continue to seek Him and allow Him to renew our perspective.
Written by Lars Rood