It’s hard to believe that I’ve already been serving in the parish for over a year. As my internship experience has ended and my time as a called worker is beginning, I consider myself extremely blessed to be able to continue serving in the same congregation that I’ve been doing my internship at. I am able to continue building the relationships that I’ve started here, continue building the ministries that I’m involved in here and continue raising up the leaders that God has given me to mentor. But while I am blessed to be able to stay here, it’s also prompted some questions in my mind. What if I wasn’t staying here? What if I just had that one year to serve these people? What would I be remembered for in that brief time?
That last question is the one that continued to stick with me as I thought about the end of my internship year. I heard in many classes in college that youth ministry takes about 3-5 years to really get settled in and firing on all cylinders. What if I didn’t have those 3-5 years to build up a program? What if I just had this one year? What would my legacy be? What would I be remembered for?
These are great questions for any youth worker to be asking regardless of how long they’ve been serving where they’re currently at. I think at the end of each year, we need to be asking ourselves, “If this past year was the only time I was at this church, what would the youth, parents and congregation learn from me?” For me, these questions force me to look at the big picture. What am I doing that is going to outlive me? I don’t want to be remembered for just being a fun, nice guy. When people think of me, I want them to think of Christ. I think this holds true for pretty much anyone in this profession. We don’t want it to ultimately be about us, but about Him.
Paul does a great job of explaining this same desire in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”. No matter how long we are serving at a place, this is our goal. All too often, I do not meet this goal. For to me, to live is programs. To live is meetings. To live is activities. To live is building relationships. To live is any number of good things that ultimately aren’t the best thing. I think we need to evaluate each year (though preferably month, week and even day) in this fashion: “for to Brandon, to live is ____________”. When my youth, parents and congregational members look at me, how do they fill in that blank? Not just those who know me well, but those who maybe only see me every once in a while. How do they fill in that blank? The answer to that question can help direct and guide us in our ministry.
When I ask myself that question, I don’t do well. I have a natural tendency to make things about myself, my goals, my desires and my happiness. Thanks be to God for His constant grace and mercy towards me, and for His great work in daily changing my very heart through His Word towards a new answer to that question. For to me, to live is selfishness. For to Christ, to live is loving me. For to Christ, to die is to forgive me. For to Christ, to rise again is to proclaim victory over the grave for me and prepare a place for me in heaven. It’s not dependent on the “for to me…” mistakes, but on the “for to Christ…” promises!
Regardless of where you’re serving or how long you’ve served there, I pray that you can be reminded of this one main idea. Your time spent in a place is not your legacy, Christ is. Your programs are not your legacy, Christ is. Your meetings, activities and retreats are not your legacy, Christ is! Your legacy is Christ, because at the end of the day, He’s the only thing that lasts. Let that be the big picture for you this day and throughout your ministry as you let God shape you more and more towards echoing Paul’s statement of faith: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain!”