Ten plus years of hanging out with teens snuck up on me. One minute I’m leading a small group of high schoolers on the patio of a church member’s home in Stuart, FL and the next minute, my Timehop is reminding me that exactly 10 years ago…on the very same weekend… I was leading a small group of middle schoolers on the front lawn of a church member’s home in Fort Lauderdale.

Here’s some of what I’ve learned so far: 

  1. Cleaning up another human’s regurgitated food doesn’t necessarily get easier, but the more you do it, the more times you can say, “I’ve done this before, I can do it again.”
  2. Teenagers will break your heart in a good way. When they trust you, they’ll let you peek into the craziness that is their world. Often, what you’ll find is insecurity, fear, and confusion. It’ll make you want to sit there in that world with them…just so they aren’t alone.
  3. They might get married before you (and you just might get to be a part of the bridal party single as all get out–but so stinkin’ happy and proud).
  4. Love big, but don’t pretend that love will keep you in the same place forever. We bloom where we’re planted, and that means putting down roots that grow from love…but it doesn’t mean God won’t plant you elsewhere one dayjust don’t love conservatively because of it. Love big!
  5. Teenagers are messy and they might break your heart in a bad way—we’re just here to show them that they are loved regardless. We can’t fix them, we can’t choose Jesus for them, and we certainly can’t stop them from: complaining about how tired they are at an event you spent countless hours planning…and you definitely can’t constantly police them…so they might draw inappropriate words/images with the paint they are supposed to be using to paint someone’s house in order to show that person the love of Jesus…Kids are messy and we love them anyway.
  6. Getting old and irrelevant is the worst, but it doesn’t discredit your role. Yes, I’m a millennial talking about getting old, but when you hang out with teenagers…there’s no avoiding it. I don’t understand meme culture and I do not understand Snapchat but I love kids and that love is timeless.
  7. I’m learning to care about people more than politics. Sometimes I have opinions on hot-button issues, sometimes I don’t. I reserve the right for either. Regardless, Jesus’ love for humanity led Him to sacrifice His life on a cross…I refuse to let my opinions overrule love. My convictions are harder to love through, but if Jesus can be perfect and yet still love perfectly, I can bother with learning how to muddle through somehow.
  8. Ministry is difficult, but being single in ministry is a special subcategory of difficult. How much time is too much at work? What about Netflix? What about self-care? Friends? Dating? When someone finds the perfect ratio, let ya girl know.
  9. Ministry shouldn’t be done alone. Up until 5 years ago, I didn’t know that local ministers could truly be friends and not secret competitors underneath the surface. I was astonished to discover that local ministers can be a family of believers that, “get” what each other are going through, pray them through it, and encourage each other in their various styles of ministry. Quelle surprise!
  10. Jesus saved Mary Magdalene, she followed Him, and when He revealed to her that He was alive she went and told others that He was alive and she had seen Him. So yes, this born and raised Southern Baptist girl preaches. As far as I’m concerned, Jesus is alive, I’ve seen Him and I’m gonna tell people about it. Don’t @ me.

Here’s to more years and more learning…because teenagers are awesome!