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the dark side of youth ministry October 22, 2007

Posted by abi in life, youth ministry.

This weekend was not a typical “fun and crazy, I love what I do” youth ministry weekend.  As I drove up to the hospice on Saturday evening to visit one of my students whose mother had just been admitted, I thought about that fact.  People preparing to be pastors know that they are eventually going to have to do funerals and a lot of bereavement counseling.  I think going into youth ministry we don’t think as much about that side of things – because we sincerely hope that we won’t have to deal with hospice visits and funerals.  We don’t want death to hit our students as much as it would the total congregation of a church with many older members.  But it unfortunately does. 

I arrived at the hospice just hoping to show up and let my high school student know I was there if she needed anything and say a quick prayer and leave since her mother had just been moved there and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t intruding on family time to say goodbye.  I really didn’t know her parents very well since this student had been invited by a friend to our youth group last year and had been coming faithfully on her own for the past year.  I had a few brief interactions with them and when we found out her mother had cancer our church reached out to them in whatever way possible with meals, rides, and prayers.  But the pastor of our church didn’t know the student too well or the family at all, so I decided that I needed to be the church representative and go visit at the hospice.  I got there about 45 minutes after the mother had died.  Walking into a room with a dead body is not what I think of as youth ministry.  But being able to hug a student who was in shock, but also kind of shocked to see that I cared that much IS.  Then I just sat there silently with them.  After a while they asked me what to do (I had no clue really) – I said I would do whatever they wanted or needed.  I said a prayer and the father asked if our pastor would be willing to do the funeral service even though they weren’t members of the church.  I assured him that we had been praying for their family for a long time and that I knew the pastor would be happy to do it if he was available.  Then I helped them make a few phone calls and left when another group of the family came so that they could grieve together privately.  I felt very overwhelmed and ill-equipped to handle it all.  But God helped me get through it and I was also thankful for my pastor-boyfriend support and advice, as well as my mother’s (she’s been a hospice nurse for years).  As hard as it was, I was glad I went, because it somehow helped that I was there.  My high school student called me at about midnight that night and thanked me for coming and she started to talk a little bit about how she was feeling.  There were long pauses and she didn’t want to talk much about it….but I was glad that she realized that she could call me whenever she needed to.

That’s what ministry is about – maybe more than the hyped up, amazing, worship-full events with tons of youth.  It’s about walking with students through all seasons of their lives – especially the dark ones. 



1. Nigel Lane - November 2, 2007

Hi Ali

2 thank you’s for the same thing – allowing yourself to be available in relationship with those who are walking the road as well

a. with your student – she needed you, and you were there. I know in some ways it doesn’t seem special but at the same time we know that it is special.
b. with us – the great unknown out in the ‘blogosphere’ Whilst sad to read it is also heartening.


2. jeremy z - November 3, 2007

Amen!!! That is the nuts and bolts of YM. We can only have soo much pizza parties with the “gospel” message. We need to be honestly walk out the scriptures with our students in the midst of the hard times.

in his grip,

3. brian - November 3, 2007

THanks for sharing this experience.

4. April - December 2, 2007

As I sit on my computer unable to sleep at this the last hour of dec 1, 2007 – – I struggle to put thoughts together for my youth group members tomarrow . . . . this blog came to me from a search engine as i try to prepare myself to share the news with Jr.High and High School Youth why Malories seat is empty this Sunday and will remain that way! At 10pm tonight the news of Mal’s death was shared with me before other members of our church were notified. Her older sister, a youth group graduate, a college student and MORE is in critical condition and their parents are still in route home from a weekend trip 3 hrs away! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on death in YM. Although our situations differ greatly the thought of dealing with death in YM didn’t come to me immediatly and definately not when it was going to be one of our youth!?!!! ==
Mal was an amazing leader and lived our youth group moto to the T! FUEL – faith unleashed in everyday life! She lived it and loved it and know she is home with the Father! I will continue to walk in the seasons with the youth at StPaul and guide them through the darkness.
In HIS service,

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