Guest Post by Jeremy Elseth.
Having served in youth ministry for 20 years, one of the joys, and unpredictable elements is, ‘where will my students end up.’ I refer to “my students’ to include the former athletes I have coached, as well as youth leaders. I have served in ministry and coached in places, including; Saskatchewan, Washington, Minnesota, California and finally, Kansas.
My biggest joy comes from witnessing what I taught students, and seeing them passing God’s truth on to others. I love that I get to see former students at denominational gatherings like Kara, Amy, Christian, Kara M., Nicholas & Drew who are now leading others. I kicked Drew out of youth group one time and he is now a youth pastor in rural Alaska. Maybe I should kick out more students! Also, this job sometimes makes me feel old. When at Bluewater Camp in MN, I saw the kid who almost drove me out of ministry, now counseling others.
Then the random places that students have ended up. There is Dr. Phil where Jessica was on for talking about “Internet Bullying”. Then there was Tara who was on “The Bachelor”. Tara got one rose before heartbreak. As I watched her cry and say “No wants want to be with me”, I was sad. I looked to my youth specialties resource books from the 90s and of course at www.averageyouthministry.com but there was nothing! I reached out and told her I care about you, like I would if she was still on a basketball team at Mt. Si or going to youth group at Cascade Covenant. Tara didn’t get the final rose on the show, but she “Lit the lamp” by marrying a gentleman who plays for the Boston Bruins.
YouTube is where two of my current leaders took a creative twist with farming terms and parodies. I prefer the Peterson Farm Brothers’ version of “I Am Farming and I Grow It” over “I Am Sexy and I Know It”. Thanks to the Peterson Farm Brothers and over 80 million views later they are still on the farming circuit speaking. Greg, Nathan and Kendal are incredible leaders here at Lindsborg Covenant. Greg gave a Ted talk on farming so they passed me on the public speaking circuit years ago.
When I coached basketball at Walnut Creek Intermediate the most recognized player ended up being Sabrina. Sabrina practiced with the boys because her twin Eddy was on the team. They were basically peanut butter and jelly. She was good enough to play with the boys. I asked the school if she could play. This might have been my best scouting report in my high profile basketball career, but they said no. By the way, I am glad they didn’t have good video cameras back in 1993 for my high school career or my junior varsity Briercrest prestigious career of 2 years. She went onto win the MVP at the McDonald’s All American game and be the NCAA all-time leader in triple doubles. Just to compare I had one double double (turnovers and fouls) at Briercrest when we played the high school. She plays for the Oregon Ducks and will most likely be the #1 pick in the WNBA eventually. Needless to say, she passed me too when she was in the 9th grade or 8th grade, it does not matter.
There is also the painful side to ministry, like seeing students serve time, divorces, making the news, addictions getting the best of them and suicide. The last time I saw Josh was on the side of the road at Linwood getting in a police car. He ran away from youth group one night. I was going to physically carry him back to church to give him a ride. We are wrestling on the side of the road, and someone stopped to help, and Josh says I am trying to kidnap him, and this goes from crazy to “I can’t make this up”. Josh got a ride in the police car home and I was not charged with kidnapping, this time. He went onto struggle, and I am surprised he actually lived through it all. Josh finally found God. God is the only one who could have spared him. Today Josh started his own business. I celebrate that he has been clean for two years! He is still working on his relationship with God.
So the point I want to leave you with is this; as a youth worker you have no idea who is in your youth group. The places they will go are exciting and scary. I hope to be a small footnote in the story, where most students will forget my name 5 years after graduation. My prayer and hope is that they don’t forget the name of Jesus. I know the names, faces, and most of the stories but God knows where they are going. So love them the best you can with the time you have because you never know when one of them will show up at your door, on TV, send you a text, or cry after not getting a rose. And you never know which student will lead you, or someday be your pastor!
The wiser, older version of Jeremy won’t chase kids down and tackle them. And there is the fact that I can’t run as fast. But I am still in the ministry of reaching students with an endless pursuit towards a God that loves them recklessly!
Next time I see one of my students on Dr. Phil, the Bachelor or ESPN I will smile and be thankful for the ride! And here is to hoping and praying that they don’t use colorful language on TV because they must have missed that night at youth group. To ALL my former students, athletes, and youth leaders; much love and respect. I am still cheering you on from Kansas. Keep loving Jesus!
My name is Jeremy Elseth. My biggest accomplishment in life is being married to Jaime for 20 years. We met while I was an intern at Harbor Covenant church in Gig Harbor, WA. She was a college student and I just graduated. Her mom was the secretary and tried to set me up with anyone but her favorite daughter. Jaime has run 3 marathons and I cheer her on. Most of the time we have 3 kids living at our house Jalen who is 16, looking for gainful employment and is an above average shooter on the court. Jordyn is 13 loves all animals and volleyball. Jersey is 10 and loves to tell us she loves us over 50 times every day and is full of hugs. I love being a youth pastor, currently at Lindsborg Covenant Church in Little Sweden in the middle of the US. I also play semi pro basketball in the Lindsborg semi pro league that plays Tuesdays and Fridays at our church. Currently there are no sports net works showcasing our games but if you know someone at ESPN let them know we are interested in a million dollar multi year contract.