Crystal’s note: Below is the the text from my very first sermon, which I gave at Crossroads of Faith UMC in Bolingbrook, May 15, 2011. I obviously tweaked it as I gave it, but for those interested in reading what I had, here you go.
Being a Christian can be hard.
By being a Christian, I don’t mean, the “I give my heart to Jesus’ speech.” “Or the ‘I was baptized” thing or even the whole ‘I went through confirmation” part. I don’t even mean the “I go to church every week” part.
Those are the easy parts.
I’m talking about the actual giving of the actual heart. In other words, the “living convicted part.”
Being a youth group leader is basically like reaching into your chest, cutting through your ribs, grabbing a chunk of your beating heart, pulling it out and putting it on the table.
There are long hours, lots of praying, pleading, crying, coffee, and emotional stress.
Like, the one time, after I had that one youth group session where everything blew up in my face, and I went to my only parent volunteer and started crying and telling him that there were in fact kids out there who actually like me.
Or that time when I put every ounce of my emotional energy into a session only to leave so drained that my roommate had to remind me that God was in fact, good.
Or that other time when I saw a mouse in my office.
Then some days are so amazing that you wonder how heaven could be any better than this.
Days when a student runs over to sit by you in service. Or days when a parent tells the Christian Education committee that he thought your plan to start a high school group was like a boat with a lot of holes in it, but now, he’s really impressed. Or when a student sends you a text message telling you, you rock.
Those are the days that bring the good tears to my eyes. That make me think that maybe God knew what he was doing putting me in this role. And on those days, I’m grateful, and happy, and blissful.
And I know that it’s my calling.
I’ve learned so much about being a better Christian by being a youth leader. I don’t always feel comfortable telling people how to live, but I do love telling stories about how God has affected my life in amazing ways, and that’s what I hope to do today.
First though, I want to tell you a little bit about how I got here. I had been hearing the call for a few years and I was ignoring the heck out of it as best I could. Just pushing it aside because holy molley had I committed an insane amount of time to being a journalist.
See, journalism was MY dream. No God needed.
I went to four years of college to learn how to do it, and I was even editor in chief of my college paper — a fact I am pointing out mostly because telling people I was editor in chief of my college paper is about the coolest thing I got out of that.
After college, I decided to go to more college. In fact, I went through an elite master’s program that only accepted 19 people from the country each year and I got a graduate degree in political journalism. From that, aside from again being able point out how cool I was, I got the added bonus of thousands of dollars of student debt.
Then, I moved to Iowa, South Dakota, Wisconsin and back to Illinois chasing MY dream.
God had different plans though.
And he kept telling them to me over and over and over and OVER again. And there were others who could sense it. I remember quizzing a youth leader one time about the path he took to get his job and in the middle he stopped and said, ‘Are you being called?’ and I said, “Me? Nope. Not me. I was just, you know, wondering and stuff.”
I was being called though.
And finally, when I found myself living in Woodstock, Il, I decided to just listen to God’s voicemail. I saw a church at the end of a block one day, and it just about called out my name outloud and told me to attend. So I did. Timid at first.
But then, I started praying about the call and asking God to lead me. So, He did. There was a volunteer fair at this church one day, and I walked up to the youth group booth and said hello and asked if they needed volunteers, and this wonderful woman named Lynn told me YES! YES THEY DO!! And then she said I should come that very night.
And I did. And Lynn turned into the best spiritual mentor ever and I turned into a youth leader.
> Pick up the phone:
And that brings me to the first thing I’ve learned, when God calls, pick up phone.