I heard the song “Heroes” by Ben Rector in the car today. In it, he describes and rhymes an all too familiar feeling. The feeling of learning about the real world, discovering that heartbreak isn’t just about romance, and that feeling of having to set aside those who were once our childhood heroes…in exchange for the reality that super powers aren’t real, fairytales are just tales, and that people are in fact…just people. Essentially he describes the sobering act of growing up.

In one particular lyric he sings:

I miss my Bible study leader

Had all the answers for livin’ in the big bad world

Don’t know if he still talks to Jesus

But his wife’s remarried now, and I think he sells garage doors

Heroes, Ben Rector

I was reminded of all of the foundational Christian leaders I had growing up—how seeing them live out their faith as a grown-up really showed me that I could do the same. I get where Ben Rector is coming from though…I understand missing the days when weekly small groups turned into sleepover giggle fests which turned into late-night talks about real life issues around a fire or in cabin at summer camp.

It’s the last two lines that stuck out to me most though. I’ve known plenty of youth leaders and youth ministers I’ve lost touch with. Others, I vaguely know what they’re up to via social media—some still serving in the church and some “selling garage doors.” It’s a profound thing…to think of an old Bible study leader and wonder if they are still “walking  the walk” and talking to Jesus on a regular basis. To wonder, regardless of their current profession, if that person you watched wrestle with faith and who taught you so much about it…to wonder if they’re still wrestling.

To those leaders that have done the work of…and continue to pour into whoever your next generation is…you will be remembered. You may not always know it, and you certainly may not always feel like it, but you will be remembered. 

My encouragement to you is this: Be the type of leader—the type of human—that the student who ultimately will remember you, can still reach out to! Maybe it’s the youth leader in me, but when that song ended and nostalgia and wistfulness settled in my heart, my biggest hope was that Ben Rector feels like he can message that Bible study leader, just to check-in, simply because he came to mind. So I guess that’s my hope for all of us who get the privilege to sit with young people for a season of their life.  Because yeah, maybe we all have to grow up eventually, and maybe fairytales are just tales and people are just people. But youth leaders? The crazies who love, mentor, and point kiddos to Jesus?  Those heroes? They’re real and they can last.