Thursday, September 04, 2008

My Youth Ministry Experience

Mike Lewis is a youth minister of 8 years. What was his experience like in youth ministry as a teen? How has it affected the way he approaches his own youth ministry? Here's your chance to hear about it.

What was the name of your youth group?
We didn't have a youth group name. But we did have a cool youth room that we named the JAM (Jesus and Me) Room. We had lots of couches, a pool table, a ping-pong table, and a basketball game that we destroyed from playing it so much. We had a television for movie nights and a stereo to crank some awesome tunes. We got to paint the front of the building. We each got a brick to write on one of the walls too. The room was a converted storage facility that doubled for years as a place to print bulletins and housed a lot of old style print machines. The Asian Minister used it for his office for a long time too back in the 80's. Now it has been converted to be a place for outreach to come and get food and supplies (I think)...all I know is that place has a lot of memories for me. I am sad they converted it and I am kinda curious where the teens meet now. I ate a lot of pizza, chips, and soda in that room.

Do you remember the first time you went to youth group? What was it like?
I was in Junior High and it was intimidating. I wasn't there long and didn't really get to know that youth minister Rick White. He didn't do much to bring me in and get me involved...I don't really remember his face even. He must not have cared that much about me if he and the rest of the youth group left me at Disneyland and went back to the place we were staying without me. They came back but I was a bit freaked out. Some people drove me around the parking lot until we found the bus. Our church split in arguments about who knows what. Our group that left didn't really have a youth group until I begged my parents to let me go back to the original church and be involved with their new youth activities. The church split group was starting to cause problems anyway and we saw that the people causing strife went with our group, so we saw who was really the problem. That was my second first time in youth group and it felt more relaxed and like I belonged from day one. My first activity was a lock in with the new youth minister. That's a funny story how a kid from High School I barely knew was going to my old church and I happened to get invited to a lock in at the church I grew up in. We knew it was God calling us back so I begged to go back. I never let go of that youth group ever since that moment.

Tell us about your youth leader.
First was Mike Rivard. He was awesome. He made me feel like I finally belonged somewhere. I didn't fit in my high school, so this gave me something to do on the weekends. He was funny in a goofy way. He always shook every person's hand on Sunday mornings. If you were there, he said "hi" to you. But it didn't feel contrived like he had to do it, but he really cared.

Tom Gaumer was a parent of one of our teens and he took over as a volunteer youth minister in '92 or '93. By the time he retired a couple years ago from being the youth minister of my hometown church, he spent 20+ years as youth minister with both his sons being in the group. His job was tough. He dealt with some tough gang kids in our youth group and treated them and everyone else with grace and humility. Our youth group was for everyone no matter what their background. One kid killed someone in a gang related shooting...Tom visits that kid in prison to let him know God still loves him. That kid knew he was wrong but Tom still loved on him. I graduated high school with Tom as our youth minister. I am in youth ministry today because of them.

Share a memory of an activity you did as a group.
Sierra Bible Camp Boys Cabin 1: I remember not going to sleep and laughing at everything once the lights went out. Ya know, typical high school stuff. Fart jokes. Throwing things at the one kid who whined about everything because we knew we would get a reaction. Campfire - Bohemian Rhapsody skit...best skit ever. Midnight hike on the last night. Singing devo songs and then yelling "praise God!" so it echoed all around at the lake. Having serious crushes on girls who ignored the fat nerdy kid (me). Softball games - campers vs. staff - finally hitting a home run. Funny "special guests" for campfire (Wayne's World & Tim the Tool Man Taylor). Swimming time at the pool. Canteen. Crafts. Dining Hall. Cabin clean-up contest. Hearing Acappella's "Growing up in the Lord" and other songs from the "Platinum" album every morning. Someone from our cabin disconnecting the speaker so we could sleep in and not hear the wake up music! HAHA! Listening to AC/DC's Back in Black, Steve Miller Band's Greatest Hits, Wayne's World Soundtrack, Guns N Roses Use Your Illusion, and Charlie Daniels Band's Greatest Hits on Mark Jarvis' CD boom box that he brought. My mom sending me taped games 5 and 6 of the Chicago Bulls when they won the championship (again) and being the hero for the guys who were missing the games for going to camp. Serenading Girls Cabin 1. Getting rejected by a girl for the first time for midnight hike. Freezing at night and in the mornings because the cabins had see-through walls (the boards were really far apart and holey). Hearing SOUL and wanting to sing in an A Cappella group even though I didn't like SOUL that much (because we heard them every single week at every single youth rally and camp) and thought I could sing better and do vocal percussion better. Meeting Jason Hill, Scott Christensen, Justin Roberts, and other recruiters who convinced me to go to Cascade College. Hearing the His Heirs singers from Cascade College sing that summer. Not knowing that girl who I thought was hot in His Heirs would later become my future wife until I met her...I coulda had a date for midnight hike!

What’s one thing that you learned in youth group that has stuck with you since graduation?
When I was told by a staff member, "Mike, we were just talking about you. You walked by and we said there goes a future elder of the church." Put some things in perspective for me. Made me a little prouder that day. Got me thinking more about spiritual things than just girls.

If you could relay a message to your old youth pastor, what would it be?
I still talk to Tom Gaumer. I worked for him in 2006 as Campus Minister for Cascade. I have tried to keep in touch with Mike Rivard. I told him he's one reason I became a youth minister. He cared about the kids like me who were on the outside socially. I want to do the same...but that doesn't mean that if I talk to you I think you are on the outside socially. So please don't stop talking to me kids!