A little over two and a half years ago I began serving as the middle school pastor at my church. When I began my ministry here I knew that I was walking into a unique situation. Unlike many youth ministry transitions, our previous youth pastor, Barry Shettel, had served at our church for 29 years. He had retired after 40 years of serving in youth ministry. When Barry decided to retire our church decided to split the youth ministry into two separate ministries, one for high school and one for middle school. I was a little nervous about walking into a situation where my predecessor had been here so long, but excited about the opportunity to continue the ministry that he served so faithfully.
Here were some of the benefits that I experienced walking into this situation:
Little/No Transition Time – Since Barry retired one week and our high school pastor was there the next week there was no drop off in the student ministry. When I joined the staff a couple of months later both ministries were able to move forward quickly.
Quick Acceptance – Since Barry made his decision to retire, and since he was still in our church, there were no hurt feelings that we had to work through with students. I felt like our students took to us pretty quickly and we made an easy transition for everyone.
Willingness to Move Forward – People loved Barry and his ministry over the years, but they were excited to have two new student ministry guys who were willing to do things a little differently. We didn’t make huge changes, but there were some things that we needed to change, and for the most part people were excited about the future of the student ministry. Including Barry!
Barry was willing to give us some things as we began this new ministry too. Here are a few things that he has given me over the past couple of years:
Space – When our high school pastor and I started at the church Barry gave us space to lead the ministry in our own way. Barry has since started being more involved in our ministry as a volunteer and as a camp pastor for our fall retreat, but he wanted us to have our space when we first got here so that we didn’t feel like he was checking up on us.
A Great Friendship – I have a great friendship with Barry. We have been to lunch many times and talked about everything from family, eBay, chickens, to ministry. I value his friendship and the time that we have to spend with one another.
A mentor – We have had many conversations about ministry, and I have asked his advice on many occasions. He has so many years of youth ministry experience that I can sit and learn from.
Barry has shared with me on a couple of occasions about how longevity in ministry is a blessing in ministry. I just hope that I am able to last as long as Barry did in ministry. I can’t think of anything better than to be able to retire from youth ministry after many years of ministry and see some of my former students faithfully serving God.
Adam Reed is the middle school pastor at Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Bogart, GA. He has been working in student ministry for 12 years. Adam blogs regularly over at www.ypadam.com, or you can follow him on twitter @ypadam.