The end of the year is approaching. Well, it's here, to say the least. As I look back on What God has done in HSM and in the lives of students in Orange County I cannot help but thank Jesus for his provision and grace!
Now, I have been in youth ministry for a while now--I cannot call myself a veteran, but I can say that I have seen so many students, leaders, sermons, trainings, camps, videos, pranks... you name it! I know that amidst so much to be thankful for, there are students who hurt, students who are lonely, students who have questions, students who are forgotten, and so much more! This letter, is to you, the students of HSM and Orange County who might find yourself at a place like this.
To the student who had a rad 2016: Ride the wave, thank Jesus, and don't take those good moments for granted. Blessing is often received, but not often recognized. Recognize it.
To the student who feels far from God: God isn't far from you. He's actually very, very close. That's the message of Christmas... In moments when we feel we aren't close to him, he actually is closer to us than we think. God is with you, in the good, the bad, and the ugly.
To the student who is on the brink of calling this "following Jesus stuff" quits: know that it's a normal feeling. But leave it at that... a feeling. Feelings change, feelings are fluid...but the best part about Jesus is that he is constant even when our feelings aren't; and if anything, that's enough right there to stay the course.
To the student who came to HSM (church) this year and didn't feel welcome: First off, I'm sorry! If this is you, I hate that you came and didn't feel welcome! My ask, is that you give us another try. Give us another chance to do better next time!
To the student who has stopped making HSM (church) a priority: I totally get it. Know that nobody is judging you for it, nor does anyone think you are "less of a Christian" because you stopped coming. But come back! If I could stress one thing to you it is that Church has far more impact in your life than just sitting and listening to a message... It creates rhythms in your life that will last forever. Come back, get back involved, make it your own!
To the student who finds HSM (church) to be boring: Get involved. We need you to give us feedback. Help us produce 'church' instead merely come and listen. We need you to help us make it... well, not boring. Come make it better.
To the student who is a:
-Freshman: At the beginning of your time in HSM, I challenged you to canonball dive into this thing. Have you? Maybe it's time to double gainer, backflip, swan dive into this thing we call church. Know this: you are vitally important to the life of HSM!
-Sophomore: It's time to start the marathon. You're not a freshman anymore--and at this point, you're not even a 'new' sophomore...It's time to start running hard after what matters most.
-Junior: College? It's still over a year away... A YEAR AWAY! Don't lose sight of the impact you can make right in front of you while you begin your college search. Slow down.
-Senior: How are you leading? 6 months left, let's make it them the best yet!
To the student who is hurting yourself: your are loved. You are loved. You are Loved. You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. It's true. You're not defined by your pain!
To the student who is lonely: It's only a season. Trust me. Seasons change with time. This season doesn't define you. You're likable, you're cool, you're unique, and after all, Jesus died for you, which means he thinks you're a person worth dying for.
To the Senior student who is worried about life after High School: It's time for your next chapter. This one shaped you, the next one will challenge you. Be confident in God, first. Then be confident in yourself... Oh yeah, know that light shines brighter in darkness. You are a light. Go be that light where God plants you and shine bright. And college? pppppffffff--it's got nothing on you.
To the student who is mad at your parents: know that you're parents are human. They're on journeys themselves. They're not perfect. We need grace from our parents, but sometimes we need to show grace to them, too. And, they love you.
To the student who is outcast because of your sexuality: You're welcome to come to my church, anytime! A high-five, a hug, and conversation, and good cup of coffee... all things surely we can agree on! Also, Jesus loves you, so I can't help but do the same.
To the student who is angry at Christians because of hypocrisy: I hate it too! But, i'd be lying if I didn't tell you I'm a hypocrite. I've preached about trusting Jesus, yet I don't. We've all been hypocrites of the faith at some point. But know that it's Jesus' human followers that fail, Jesus doesn't. My Church's (HSM) motto: no one has all the answers, no one is perfect...
And to all of you: We are in it together. Life is a journey, 2016 was a trek for some, while for others was a smooth breeze. No matter what it was, we all can agree that life is always better spent, together. So let's do 2017 together. Freshman, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors... we're in it together... So let's live this next year knowing that that is true. Onward.
Til' Next TIme
**This post was inspired by a fellow pastor-friend Adam Knowles. Check out his rad post here