I need to write or I’m going to explode. I stepped away from writing for a while because I had a deadline, or I had CPE and I was driving back and forth to Birmingham and Jasper. Then it was quarantine and managing my depression. Any way you look at it I stepped away from a spiritual practice that I need, that my soul needs, and that the Holy Spirit is no longer allowing me to push aside.
I have a lot of things to say, many of which you don’t need to hear from me, so those things will wait. One thing I can speak to, no matter the social goings-on in the world, is Youth Ministry. I love youth and children, and I love working with them in the church. Its gives me life. I even love seeing their faces on Zoom, even when I have to mute them just to get a sentence out (also, my science-y people, let’s get to work on an IRL mute button for groups of children, teachers will thank you).
The Sticky Faith movement through Fuller youth institute uses Chap Clark’s recommendation to flip the youth to adult ratio in ministry. They assert that every youth needs 5 adults active in their lives to have a greater chance of staying with the church as an adult. You can read more about this here.
I’ve been nostalgic as of late for my home church, Good Shepherd Lutheran in Frederick Maryland. They are active on Facebook and I get to watch the really cool things they are doing, and keeping up with people from church that I grew up with has just caused me to think a lot about my 5 people. I had so many more than 5, for sure. People who did things before I ever got there laying the ground work for the community that would raise me in the faith.
People like Nancy Zeim, who changed names from mankind to human kind, and gender neutral language referring to God creating a space where we could recognize that perhaps male-centric language can be harmful, in the mid- 1980s, quietly blazing a trail for my feminist theologian self years later.
People like Rev. LaVern Rasmussen, who preached uncomfortable sermons about social justice while I was a tiny kiddo on the front pew. Who hugged me after service even though the man was not a hugger (who could refuse such a cute kiddo!)
People like Danny Tregoning who was the face (and voice, in the church bulletin) of church softball, the lifeblood of our fellowship every softball season. I watched little kids at those games, strengthened friendships, and felt loved by church family outside the walls of the building.
Or People like Ron Castle, who would see me, sometimes 3 times a week, at the Frederick Coffee Company while I was studying for college, and would say “Is that you?” When his health was failing years later, and I came home for a visit, he saw me at church and smiled and said “Is that you?” I treasure that.
I list those people because they aren’t even my 5, which goes to show how important adults are in the lives of young people.
My 5 (ish)
Jill and Mike Schaeffer
When I was baptized, my sponsors had to be members of the church, and I’m so glad they were. Jill and Mike were awesome God parents. I assumed that if my parents died I would go live with Jill and Mike (didn’t find out that was way off till I was a teenager!) I went to daycare with Jill, I went on vacation with them, and I learned a lot about being part of the life of the church from them. I learned that if you want council meetings to move along, you create a dynamic duo of motions and seconds with your God mother. I learned that music and worship were two sides of the same coin, singing in the choir with them, learning liturgical dance with their daughter, and listening to Mike sing solos and play guitar. They made sure I knew I was loved and that church was home.
Pat and Gene Schoonover
Sometimes Pat scared me. I was worried if I forgot and wore tennis shoes as an acolyte she might say something about it, same goes for me messing up the order of something on altar guild. And maybe she did, but I don’t remember that. I know she liked things in good order, like any good Lutheran. I also know that she fought to resettle southeast Asian refugees, because God’s work isn’t just in the Sanctuary. She and Gene supported my efforts to host Compassion Sunday yearly as a teenager, encouraging families to sponsor children across the globe. And when I was a senior in high school and locked my keys in the car, I called the church, so I could get Gene’s number. While he couldn’t help me out for free, there was mysteriously a graduation card with the same amount of money as my locksmith fee waiting for me a few weeks later.
Phyllis was my Sunday School teacher for… forever. I know we had some different ones when I was little, and then there was this long time span where I’m fairly certain no one else would teach us. There were 13 in my confirmation class, that was a lot for our small-ish church. Afterwards the number dropped, as it does many places, but Phyllis never gave up on our Sunday school class, even when it might just be me and her daughters. She was also my altar guild partner, who taught me why we do what we do, and that you can drink the wine after communion, but its 9 am, so maybe pouring it down the special drain that ran outside was a better call.
Marilyn used to run the Christian education stuff that other people might prefer she forgot. Like VBS, or Summer Sunday School, and the Christmas Pageant. She had some awesome red hair and if you saw her coming, you looked for a quick exit before she could ask you to do something. But she was patient, and she’d find you eventually, which is how I ended up teaching 3 and 4 year old VBS, or singing a song in the children’s Christmas Pageant at 16 (don’t get me wrong, I stole the show, but I was the oldest by like… a lot). Sometimes I channel my inner Marilyn now as a Children’s and Youth minister when I’m recruiting volunteers. I haven’t made the jump to awesome red hair yet, my purple bangs will have to suffice.
Rev. Ron Reaves
I would be missing out on possibly the biggest influence on my life at Good Shepherd if Pastor Ron wasn’t in my 5. Pastor Ron was called to Good Shepherd when I was 11. I loved Church as a kid, and as a teenager. I loved being an acolyte, assisting minister, lector, all of it. I even liked being on council. I loved confirmation. My time with Pastor Ron in confirmation was some of my favorite time spent at GS. But it didn’t stop there. Trips to Germany, Lancaster PA Sight and Sound theater, church picnics and puppet shows with Fozzie Pastor Bear and Kermit the Lutheran Frog, halloween parties and his red plaid pants you could count on him wearing for Pentecost, all of that was part of the life of the church with Pastor Ron. I didn’t know other churches had a staff, because in my little church Pastor Ron and Pastor Gary were it for what we would call a programming staff.
He was my children’s, tween, and youth, and young adult minister. He encouraged my call to ministry, taking me to his old stomping grounds of Gettysburg college and seminary (now United Lutheran Seminary). He let me see that grown ups sometimes changed their minds on things they believed all their lives, and was there for me in times of “crisis” like when I was in a hit and run at community college and I didn’t know what to do so I drove to church to have Pastor Ron tell me what to do.
Not all Pastors can be in someone’s 5 adults. Most have too many kids in their congregation to reasonably do that. I’m glad my pastor was in my 5.
I know there are people in my congregation I didn’t list, and I could tell stories for days, and that’s what I encourage you to do. Tell stories. Who were your 5 people? What were they like? What did you do? What did they teach you?
And who’s 5 are you a part of? Make memories, take a chance, be 1 of 5, or 500, there are never too many loving grownups in the life of a kid!