Hi everyone, my name is Daniel and I wanna talk a little bit about my life leading up to my decision of becoming a youth shepherd.
BEFORE the Decision
For as long as I can remember I was at The Seed, my sister, Joy, has always been super involved with the church. I’m not sure if there was a time while I was here that she wasn’t serving as a youth shepherd or taking a big part in ministry. For an even longer time, I’ve really respected and admired Joy because she’s one of the most hard-working people I know, and she’s taught me so many things growing up. Basically, she’s an S-tier role model to me.
Though I wasn’t constantly asking her about how her journey as a youth shepherd was going, I observed from a distance the amazing effects on the church that she and the other shepherds were making. I probably don’t show it as much as I’d like to, but I love the youth, and spending time with them is fun. Sometimes when I’m interacting with them, I forget that I’m older than them and I get lost in conversation. Maybe it’s because I miss high school or something, and I’m trying to get as close to reliving that part of my life as possible.
WHY I Decided
Three years ago, I was at one of our retreats. At this time, the current youth shepherds were about to end their three-year term and new shepherds would be recruited. I had also recently graduated from high school and was moving away from Toronto to go to university. On the second night of that retreat, I prayed to God for his wisdom. A part of me wanted to be a youth shepherd. Throughout my time at Mokmin, I had many opportunities to serve people younger than me and I thought I got along well with them. My admiration for my sister existed at that point in time as well, and I wanted to be cool like her. That’s the last time I’m complimenting you, you’re welcome. But another part of me didn’t know how youth shepherding would affect my university life. And it wasn’t the reason you might be thinking, either – I wasn’t really that concerned with school itself. I was just really curious and excited to meet new people, and I was scared that I would resent youth shepherding, or even church, if I didn’t get a chance to do that. As I prayed, I literally heard God tell me, “Lead my children home.” He literally said that. But even with this clear-as-day nudge from God, I ended up not committing to youth shepherding. Daniel, are you dumb? How much more obvious could it be??
Anyways, for the next three years, I observed how lovingly the shepherds served the youth. It was a really nice thing, and I found myself feeling a mix of emotions – a bit of regret, a bit of joy, and a bit of determination. The thought that I should pursue youth shepherding occasionally popped into my head, and every time it did, I remembered what God told me during the retreat. I knew I wanted to serve the church that’s served me over the years, and I felt that being a youth shepherd would be a good way of doing that and serving the youth.
HOW I Decided
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of serving at the youth retreat. I’m really thankful to have spent some quality time with the youth and gotten to meet some new faces. SO, after each sermon, I led sharing with a few youths. Nothing too crazy, just a few discussion questions. After experiencing probably a FRACTION of a PERCENT of what the youth shepherds have experienced for the past 3 years, I can confidently say that I have so much respect for our past youth ministry team. And I’m NOT trying to say that the youths were giving me a hard time or anything – I was simply not prepared to be a good leader those two nights, that’s 100% on me. Anyways, our youth ministry team is so wise, mature, and dedicated, and there’s just no taking away from any of the work that they’ve done. Let’s give it up for them!!
Anyways, the contrast in wisdom and dedication between us made me think many thoughts – “Am I even half the person they are? Is simply HAVING the heart to do this enough? What if, deep down, I’m not really committed to serving in this capacity, and I’m being careless? What if I’m not charismatic enough? What if I’m not wise enough? What if I’m not tall enough? What if I’m not good enough?”
A few months later, I had the privilege of attending the Youth Ministry Information Session. Here, I heard the testimonies of a few shepherds. Without going into detail about what they told us there, I will say that I was encouraged by what they said, and it reassured me that, during hardships, God will provide me with comfort and wisdom, whether it’s through people, experiences, or his Word.
I’m going to talk about something I struggled with in my past. Until I was in grade eight, I was too scared to sleep alone in the dark. So, I would sleep in my parents’ room. Until grade eight. And here’s a true story – one night, my dad had gotten fed up with me, brought me downstairs to a spookier part of the house and told me to go stand in the corner for a minute by myself. Admittedly, I did not enjoy it. Obviously, the monsters that I thought were there, weren’t actually there. After the minute, he told me, quite sternly, that it’s all in my head and that I need to get it together. Eventually, I was taking baby steps. I started sleeping in my room with the door open and the hallway light on, then with just a lamp on, and eventually with no lights on or doors open. I sleep in the dark now, just so you guys know. I remembered this while I was writing my testimony because I know that youth shepherding won’t always feel fun and rewarding. I’m willing to bet that, sometimes, it’ll feel like I’m not good enough. Maybe I’ll feel like I made a mistake. But I’m also willing to bet that, when it gets tough, God will help me take those baby steps and grow into someone who can sleep in the dark. I just hope he won’t have to scold me.
I know that having a heart to serve and not being completely awkward with the youth isn’t enough to be a youth shepherd. What IS enough is God. I know he will equip me with everything I need, whenever he thinks I need it. I’d be lying if I said I’m not afraid of messing up, but knowing God is with me makes it a whole lot easier.
I wanna thank my friends at church that have helped me up to this point, the youth ministry team for being such amazing examples, second most importantly my sister for being an OG, and most importantly God for bringing me this far. Thanks!