Sunday, January 23, 2005

A little history

It seems it might be helpful to recount my candidating history. Although I am only set to finish seminary this year, I have a surprising amount of experience with candidacy, and even placement; perhaps this is why other students seem to appreciate my thoughts and advice. At any rate, I'll give my history in increments, because it would be a long post indeed if it were all in one.

While I was in college, I volunteered with Young Life; this was a great experience, and at times I was greatly encouraged at how God used that ministry, and me through it. A year into my ministry with Young Life, I got to know a student (Iain) whose father was/is a PCA Pastor. Over time, I got close with Iain and with his family, and his father (Richard) and I began to go hunting together. One day we were making plans by phone for another duck hunt, and Richard asked me to give Iain some extra time over the coming few months. It seems that the man who was serving their small church as Youth Minister was leaving, and he and Iain had become quite close. Of course I would, and I was sorry that he was losing his youth guy. Richard mentioned that, if I knew anyone who might be interested in a part-time youth ministry position, he would appreciate a recommendation. We finished our plans and hung up.

A few minutes later, Richard called back-- would I be interested in that position? Apparently, he and his wife had been praying about this for a while, and both had come up with my name as a possible candidate. I was astounded, and flattered; I had longed for such a position for what seemed like several years, but when Richard first mentioned it the thought that I might take it never crossed my mind. I said I would pray about it, and we agreed to meet for lunch the following week to discuss it.

Lunch went well; Richard gave me a brief history of the church, another brief history of the youth ministry, and told me exactly what he wanted. He was looking for a man who was sound in his reformed theology, who was relational but with a vision for teaching and training others, and who was a self-starter. He was pretty sure that I fit the description nicely. That we got along so well was an added bonus-- he knew already that we could work (and play) well together. Was I interested? Yes-- but wasn't there more to it than that? Didn't I need to be interviewed by someone-- the Elders, the parents, the youth ministry committee? There was no youth ministry committee; Richard was as representative of the parents as anyone, as he had two kids in the group (and one about to enter it); and the Elders would pretty much agree with Richard's decision, but I would meet with them the following Sunday.

Sunday came, and I met the Elders-- both of them-- along with Richard in his study at the church property. They heard my testimony, my account of my sense of calling to the ministry, and asked about my experience (which was all volunteer experience at that point). I left the room, and a few minutes later they came out and welcomed me to the staff! I later found out that they were in agreement almost as soon as I had left the room, and the remaining minutes were passed in prayer.

So there I was, a 22-year-old college student (actually, a college drop-out at that point) with no substantial youth ministry experience and no training at all, and I was about to start a youth ministry-- from scratch, as far as I knew. The candidacy process, in this case, was the easiest part of the whole experience.

In one form or another (which I'll detail later), I remained on that staff for four years-- way beyond the national average for a Youth Minister. When I left, it was not to move on to another ministry role... but I'll cover that in the next “history” post.

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