It wasn’t long ago that an, ahem, “experienced” member of our congregation – one of those silver-haired seniors known to us as the Happy Hearts – mustered up the gumption to call me aside before the Sunday morning service and ask me a question that had obviously been bouncing around his dome for quite some time: “Do you ever keep office hours?” As the organ chimed the prelude, and the robed singers entered the choir loft holding tightly to their Baptist Hymnals, I really didn’t know how to answer him. Yet, in a moment of brilliance, I giggled awkwardly and said something akin to, “Can I get back to you on that?”
By Monday morning, after rolling around the proper response in my own mind, I was adequately prepared to rebut his obvious lack of appreciation for the fact youth ministers are never boxed in by the typical 9-to-5 office work day. The following is part of my answer to him; feel free to use as much of it, or add to it as needed when your own “experienced” Happy Heart approaches you.
- My office is the high school batting cage throwing buckets of balls to the second-level player who tweets out an invitation for teammates to come hit on a Sunday afternoon and nobody takes him up on it.
- My office is my own driveway where the sophomore son of the hospital administrator gets his first automobile and wants you to be first one to see it.
- My office is that same driveway three years later when that same truck pulls in with 30,000 more miles on the odometer and his first semester of college is behind him and he just wanted to come by and catch up.
- My office is my recliner, in which I am ready to doze off when I get the 10:30 Tuesday night text that “a few of us are driving around town and happen to be in your neighborhood and wanted to see if we can stop by and hang for awhile.”
- My office is a booth in the local mom and pop ice cream shop trying to make sense of the moment the tear-stained freshman girl across the table found out her dad – a small group leader in my student ministry – just shattered her world when he chose the younger woman over her and her mother.
- My office is the cold tile floor of a dorm hallway at church camp at 2:30 a.m., talking down the 7th grade boy who has come to the breaking point of life because he’s not wanted at home.
- My office is the passenger seat of my own car when the newly licensed girl wants to drive you around the church parking lot while you silently pray for God’s angels of protection to keep you alive.
- My office is outside the locker room on a cold November night after a season-ending loss in the semifinals, hugging the kid who was too small and too slow to play high school football but somehow became a two-year starter, after the realization hits him that he will never again play the game he loves so much.
- My office is the youth room, as kid after kid files out and the 19-year-old boy who you wanted to kill as a 6th grader has grown into a fine young man and stays behind so he can tell you that he feels God is calling him into a life of youth ministry. And as you hug him tight and pray with him aloud, silently you are also praying God will someday send him a 6th-grader just like him.
- My office is the ER, where a girl counting on that basketball scholarship to afford college, lies in tears after wrecking her ACL in the fifth game of her senior year.
- My office is the open window on the third floor of the education building, where that freshman boy with the big smile challenges you to see whose paper airplane can fly the farthest across the church parking lot while all of the Happy Hearts are walking in for Wednesday night supper.
So, where is your office?
Same place as mine – wherever a kid needs yours to be. Rarely is it within that stale, beige colored box inside the church where the door bears your name. Mostly, it’s outside the doors, where life isn’t always safe, or secure or fair. But it is in our “office” where we see God do special and powerful things in the lives of the kids He places in our care. Keep doing what you’re doing, because you are making a difference … no matter what the Happy Hearts think.
Header image provided through creative commons by suikris.