It was the Summer of 1997 and I was just excited to be at Youth Camp and have fun with my friends. Little did I know God had something much bigger in mind for my life! You see, I was only 14 years old and entering my Freshman year of High School. I had plans to be a baseball coach for the rest of my life. However, God had a different plan for my life. He wanted me to spend the rest of my life sharing the love of Jesus as a pastor. So there in that crowded auditorium surrounded by a few hundred students and leaders I told God I was willing to do whatever He asked of me.
I thought I had at least four more years until I actually had to act on this calling. After all, who would listen to a 5’2” boy who was only 14 years old. However, thank God I had a pastor who was willing to take risks and invest in a younger generation. So three short months later he asked if I would preach on a Sunday; and not just the Sunday night service with only handful of people in attendance, but to the entire congregation on Sunday morning and again on Sunday night. That single decision my pastor made changed my life forever.
Here are the four things that my mentor did that had a lasting impact in my life and helped mold me to be the man God had called me to be:
1. He believed in me enough to ask me to step up, despite my age. He didn’t care how old I was. He didn’t hesitate to hand over his teaching time to the congregation. He wasn’t worried that people would tune out because a “boy” was teaching the Word of God.
2. He helped prepare me to succeed. Pastors usually have long hours and spend a lot of time away from home already. His time was valuable to him and I knew that. That did not stop him from meeting me at 7pm in his office to sit down and brainstorm ideas of what I could possibly preach on. Then after we came up with an idea he stayed to teach me how to actually do it. He gave me tips, allowed me access to sermons he had already preached on to gather more information, and when I left he gave me other resources to look at.
3. When the day came, he sat in the front row and listened attentively. He set the example for the entire church. He didn’t take his vacation on the day I preached my first sermon. He was there front and center, taking notes, and encouraging me along the way. And believe me, it wasn’t easy. That first sermon was a rough one to listen to!
4. He continued to schedule out regular times where I would preach. It wasn’t a one-time thing. I preached regularly from the age of 14 years old. And over time I began to understand what it took to effectively relay a message from God to a church body. He picked me up on the way to hospital visits, meetings with other pastors, had me attend ministry meetings, etc. He took the time to bring me along to anything he thought would be beneficial for my growth as a pastor.
These practices conducted by a man who believed in a kid forever changed my life. I would not be the same man I am today if it weren’t for him.
The next time you see a child or student walk on stage after a service, “play” at the pulpit, seem interested in a musical instrument, etc. don’t stop them! Encourage them! Engage them! Find out what interests them. Take a moment out of your busy day and invest in them. You never know what God has in store for their life.