This evening while looking for some old files online I came across an old photo account that I hadn't posted on in probably over a decade. They were just some dumb animated gif's I drew, but it got me thinking about what else lay in the archives of my various internet accounts. I then started looking back at old emails, finding emails from back to 2005 (sadly any further back has been lost.) What amazed me however was that each email I viewed took me back to a certain place in life because each email was tied to a relationship and a situation. Conversations with kids I was mentoring, ministry discussions with coworkers, planning documents for youth events, songs recorded with an old band.. the memories just went on and on.
Being a youth minister, whether it's in a pastoral role like mine, or as a camp counsellor, or youth group volunteer, is about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ through word and action, but it's also about building memories. Do you know what kind of memories I'm talking about? I'm taking about the kind that bring a smile when they come to you years down the road. Sometimes they're from silly situations, like a youth event where someone just went over the top to create an atmosphere of fun that stuck in your head and stayed there. Sometimes they're from talks where you realized that someone was finally listening to you and you didn't have to prove anything or be anyone other than yourself. Sometimes they're from just remembering that someone cared enough to spend time with you.
I'm learning more and more about what it means to build intentional memories. By intentional I mean that they are tied to the gospel. I've had the following situation happen to me twice now, and some other former coworkers had the almost identical situation as well: running into former campers of ours who recognize us, mention the camp, and exclaim, "F--- that place was awesome." I'm serious... and here's why it means so much to me. In a camp where the majority of campers were not from church backgrounds we were very serious and intentional about sharing the gospel. While there were many who never did accept what we had to say it is a comfort to know that they still had an amazing time with us because our goal was to give them the best week of their lives. What we did was create a positive memory bridge to the gospel and we never know when that seed planted might just sprout.
What saddens me is when people, especially young people, are left with memories of the other kind, especially when they are tied to the gospel as well. I've seen the effects first hand of inappropriate discipline (whether it be from parents or christian leaders) and of cold legalism. There is nothing sadder than seeing a student equate the sins of others against them to the gospel of Jesus Christ and you need to know that your actions DO have an impact. Sometimes the negative impact is far more than you might ever imagined and I know because I've seen it and heard it from many students I've cared for over the years. I know I've been guilty of it myself (just read this post of mine from 2012) and I am thankful that God's grace is enough to cover my sins. However, it also means I desire to grow and do better and that is my prayer for all of us.
Tomorrow morning I have the privilege of teaching another sunday school class. I don't know what privilege you have tomorrow morning, but you do have something, and you have the opportunity to make a memory.... Let's make some good ones.