Best moments from Summer 2018!

junior high ministry, youth ministry

This has been THE BEST summer of ministry I’ve ever experienced. I wanted to write a blog about one or two of my favorite moments, but found myself lost for words. So, here, in no less than 1600 words, are my favorite moments from this summer:

  1. Last summer we started a tradition that I call “Huddles with Heather.” Each Wednesday students can meet me at a local Frozen Yogurt place called Huddles, and we eat ice cream and chat. Last year we had, at the most, a dozen people. This year, we had no fewer than a dozen each week, sometimes hitting 20-25 people PLUS all the parents and students who came to hang out!
  2. Huddles was so awesome, that my summer intern and I made “Huddles with Heather” tank tops. We only printed 12, and they became the most coveted item of the summer.
  3. At Vacation Bible School, I led games for preschoolers (don’t laugh!). There was an awesome snack area for leaders to take a break in. There was a gaggle of 5th graders who were volunteering that week, and I got to know them–they were very interested in pictures of my cat. Since the fifth graders had only been in my middle school ministry two weeks, I didn’t know them super well. They came to Huddles that week, and brought friends with them. All of their friends ended up signing up for Mayhem!
  4. Each summer we do Middle School Mayhem. The following memories are from it. Watch this video to see more.
  5. There was a 5th grade girl who was crying and could not be calmed down by her fantastic student leader. I asked her what was wrong, and she said that her friend died last year, and today was his birthday. I gave her a hug as she cried, and I asked how he died. She said he committed suicide. From there, I took her into our office, and sat on the couch with her as she bawled her eyes out. She shared that he was bullied heavily, and the people who bullied him began bullying her for being sad he’s gone. She shared about the birthday party he had planned for that day, his 11th birthday. From there, I decided we’d have a birthday party. One of our leaders grabbed a piece of cake from a local place, and that student, her leader, and I had a “birthday party” in my office, huddled around a piece of chocolate cake, sharing stories and asking questions about her friend. It was one of the most holy things I’ve ever experienced. Because kids shouldn’t die that early. And we should give space for kids to grieve that stuff.
  6. There were a few 6th grade boys who LOVED our devotion times this year at Mayhem (a struggle in previous years to get kids to settle down). They wanted more than 20 minutes of quiet time so they could “meditate” after finishing their journals.
  7. I’ve been investing some time into a 6th grade girl, and she made me an entire “Photo Gallery” of different sketches of things–her Bible, our Mayhem logo, a picture of me, some words that describe me, and things like that. Then, later that week, she wrote me two notes: one that described how thankful she was for our relationship, and another expressing a really heavy prayer request because she “just wanted another person to know.” How fantastic that students can come to the church with that stuff.
  8. The Pink Team was KILLER this year. I had an entire Tribe of 7th grade girls, and gave them the color pink. They created an entire Pink cave complete with so much pink, I literally had to sit down to absorb it all. Although the girls were a little points-hungry at times, their leader kept them humble and with a positive attitude.
  9. A student leader expressed to me the week before, during set up, that she was interested in youth ministry…even middle school ministry. Somehow, through the holy spirit, we decided that she should teach during Mayhem…to over 100 people! For her first sermon! And she CRUSHED IT. Her tribe even created a poster for her, signed by everyone on the tribe, to cheer her on.
  10. Another student leader baked an entire sheet cake with his father, and brought it to Mayhem on the last day to share with his tribe. It was such a huge cake, that he was able to share it with the group. Nobody could believe that he actually made it, it was so impressive.
  11. ALL of my student leaders impressed me LEAPS AND BOUNDS THIS WEEK. Holy cow. Each one of them served at the level of an adult, with such poise an maturity.
  12. We had 3 busses try to break down on us, but not once did it ruin or plans or make us late. Praise God!
  13. This year we added “Yay Gods” and “shoutout” to our daily routine, something we do on our YouthWorks Mission Trips. The kids loved it and anticipated it each day.
  14. Each year I get rained out of the local swim park. This year we were able to book a fantastic side plan, going to a local place for bowling and laser tag. The students had a blast.
  15. With each student who “got in trouble,” we were able to preserve the relationship and adjust their experience so that they felt successful that week. Such a success and God thing.
  16. OUR ORBEEZ POOL WORKED. We had a dream of filling a swimming pool full of water beads. It definitely failed during our test period (the pool popped) but the students LOVED IT. Oh yeah, and no one threw up in the foam pit this year.
  17. Last year I had a 7th grade girl who drew me as Willy Wonka (our theme was Chocolate Factory). This year she made me a new drawing, and everyone was so excited to see her next installment. Before you know it, my office will be her official art gallery and I LOVE IT.
  18. We had two new adult leaders this year, who totally dug and understood the middle school age. One of them had a particularly tough group, but never complained, even though he was going home to two babies each night.
  19. MISSION TRIP memories to follow from here — which this year, we brought 41 students and leaders on! My first year here, I definitely brought seven. Ha!
  20. One night during small groups, I overheard a small group leader saying to a girl “own it!” I heard the girl say, “I could maybe be a pastor.” The small group leader said “don’t say maybe!” and the girl responded “i could be a pastor!” That girl then told me that she was considering ministry. On the last night of the trip, she stood in front of our entire church group and told them that she might be a pastor when she grows up!
  21. The boy who needed space to think, and stepped out of small groups time. Talking to him, I learned he’d had a rough year, and had some doubts. He was thankful that our church didn’t teach black-and-white theology. He still seemed unsettled. During the last night of the trip, he stood up and told the group that through death and heartbreak in his family, he knew he could always come back to St. Luke’s and find a home here.
  22. The siblings who never separated from each other before, but found their separate identities at the trip.
  23. The group of girls who embraced another girl, even though she kept pushing them away and attempting to be a loner.
  24. After the mission trip, I asked students to send me on Instagram stories of how their Small Group Leaders have impacted their lives. One girl messaged me, saying that her SGL influences her to consider how ministry could be a part of her vocation–making this the fourth girl of the summer, and the sixth in eight months to tell me that she’s exploring ministry vocationally!
  25. This year, I didn’t have to argue with a single kid about showering. God works in all things, big and small stinky!
  26. On the mission trip this year was an 9th grader who, in 7th grade, had to “quit” Confirmation because some things came up. I really didn’t want her to quit, because I knew she’d be separated from her friends if she repeated the year, with the kids a year younger than her. This last year she was a great Student Leader for the 7th graders, and was very nervous about going on the mission trip this summer. She reconnected easily with her 9th grade friends, and on the last night, stood them in front of the entire room and told of their loyalty and kindness.
  27. Two of our pastors are leaving the church, and taking their incoming  7th grade daughter with them. She came on the mission trip, bringing her entire entourage with them. I was concerned it might be tough, spending a “last week” with them… but the group celebrated her and her family, and as an entire group we sent this girl off with an emotional prayer. She’s going to be a cornerstone at her new church, and we’ll miss her. But it was awesome.
  28. There was another young lady, who came on this trip, but had never come to St. Luke’s before. She said to me, “Are all Methodists like this? You guys are so kind, and emotional. Lutherans aren’t like this.” I joked with her that mission trips get emotional for everyone, but she was able to pinpoint something special about our group. And I mean… they are special.

I know that as soon as I hit “publish,” there are going to be several more things that pop up in my brain. This summer has been SPECTACULAR, and if you read every word, I want to thank you for celebrating this summer with me. :)

A story about an 8th grade boy

junior high ministry, lessons, youth ministry

In my last post I talked about sharing stories of hope. So here’s a nice one for you–

In our church we teach Confirmation in 7th grade (which, for my evangelical friends: Confirmation is a “coming of age” process where students affirm the vows made at their baptism by their parents to raise them in faith, and then pledge to own their faith as their own).  One of the crazy things about Confirmation is that people come out of the woods for the process: while a class could average 25 in 6th grade, it can average 45 in 7th grade. It’s kind of insane. And one of the big problems with Confirmation in our church–and others–is that after Confirmation, that number typically goes down dramatically–to 15 students weekly.

Lots of smart minds have put their heads together trying to figure out why there’s such a big drop-off after Confirmation, but no one really has tons of answers. And that’s sad, because I love my church and think it’s exactly what a teenager needs as they go through puberty and get a car and question their entire existence before they go off to college. So, I got creative and tried to figure out: How can we keep kids after Confirmation? But there was another question: What do students need after Confirmation? And since we do Confirmation in 7th grade, we ask: What doe an 8th grader need? 

We identified that an appropriate response to Confirming your faith would be to discover your Spiritual Gifts. This makes perfect sense for the 8th grade year, since ending middle school and entering high school brings about several questions of identity: Who am I? What am I good at? What do I have to offer the world?

Of course, there are no year-long courses on Spiritual Gifts (and especially not for students). And my colleagues thought I’d be crazy to talk about this for an entire year with middle schoolers. Will they care? Are they going to get bored? Shouldn’t we talk about stuff they want to talk about? 

What we realized was: this is kinda perfect. But we also decided to make sure that an 8th grader has a way of practicing their spiritual gifts as they are learning about them. So, I did several steps:

  • We used the Spiritual Gifts assessment and resources by LeaderTreks
  • I split the 15 gifts into 5 categories
  • Each of the 5 categories is a “unit”
  • At the end of the unit, we practice the gift in a hands-on way
  • (yes, I’ll go into this more into detail later. Shoot, I might even market this jank or give it away for free)

This month we did our unit on “Teachers” and focused on the gifts of Teaching, Evangelizing, and Mentoring/Pastoring. For the end of the unit, the 8th graders took over The Modge, our program for 5th & 6th graders. I decided to ask an 8th grade student to teach that day, and then have their peers lead Small Groups.

Who to ask? The class clown, obviously. Last year in 7th grade, Bob (not his name) would purposely troll the class. He was the kid that would shout things out, that would put silly questions in our “Ask Anything” jar, and who would be generally obnoxious. One leader even asked me if he could not be in his small group, because he can overwhelm things in a group setting.

But y’all. I believe in chaos. And when I got Bob’s gifts assessment back at the beginning of the year and saw Leadership, Speaking Out (prophecy), and Pioneering (apostleship). I squealed. I knew it. knew this kid was a leader.

And last month as I was teaching the lesson Evangelism, Bob shouted out “Heather, you want me to teach today?” And I laughed. And then I thought, “No, this boy should be teaching something.”

So I emailed his parents. And got his cell phone number. And talked to his dad. And told my leaders. And everyone thought it was equally crazy and equally possible that this could be the most brilliant thing to happen to our ministry. Maybe this could change things. Maybe this could solve our concerns about retention. Maybe this could just work.

And after meeting with him twice, high-fiving him 57 times, and handing over the stage? It did. It was amazing. At one point I took my eyes off of him to look around the room at all my leaders–who were all in awe with their mouths agape and grinning from ear-to-ear.

And when I asked his peers afterwards what they thought–they were impressed that their friend had the bravery to stand in a room full of almost 80 people.

Here’s another thing I love about this story: Bob’s lesson was on the shepherds at Jesus’s birth. The bottom line for the lesson was that God can use anybody to share his message with others. That shepherds had a lowly job, but they were visited by angels and given the only invitation to the greatest thing that has ever happened to our world–and then given the job to go share with with others.

Catch that? I didn’t even realize it until he was sharing his “underdog story” that we crafted together: God can use anybody to share his message with others. Even an 8th grade boy.

As for answering what to do after Confirmation, I’m not sure I have the magical answer. But what I walked away from Sunday thinking was, “I want to do this again.” I want to empower another student to lead. I want to see another student proclaim God’s promises from the stage. I want to see another group of students support their friend (even if they initially doubted him). I want to see another parent surprised at their kid’s potential. I want to see more Small Group Leaders rewarded for their investments pastoring these kids.

I want to see more. I need to see more. I crave more now. Because kids like Bob will solve all our problems but, more, they will readjust our hope for the church to be more about transforming lives and less about numbers.

Allowing Tweens to ask Tough Questions

junior high ministry, Millennial in Ministry

I’ve officially been at my church 2 years. Wow! As I turn 26 in just two weeks, I’m sure you can understand that I’ve never been in any position this long. It’s not my fault altogether; I mean, us Millennials are flakey. So I read.

I never thought I’d find myself in a progressive church. Women teaching? Heresy. Welcoming gay people? Blasphemy. Topical sermon series? Grandma is crying.

But the thing that terrified me the most: Creating an open space for people to ask tough questions.

And wouldn’t you know it: That’s the thing I love the most about my job in youth ministry.

We say we want students to ask the tough questions. We hope that students will come to us when they are stuck. But what are we doing to create that opportunity for them?

This year I took over our Confirmation class, and it’s been a pretty cool experience. One of the things Confirmation allows is for students to ask hard questions. So, I have three “panels” a year that gives students an opportunity to lay them on me.

And my, it’s terrifying. Every time I have one of these, I am anxious and have to lay down the coffee. In fact this last Sunday, I was so nervous I forgot my trusty pink Bible.

They ask me how I can know that the Bible hasn’t been mishandled by people over time (I read them the curse at the end of Revelation…smart move, Heather). They ask me who is going to Heaven, and what Hell is like. They ask me if God is going to allow the earth to get destroyed by the sun/ice caps/war/zombies, because, you know, there’s scientific proof for all that. And then we get to have a conversation that while science is true, God is bigger.

Then they ask me the things everyone is thinking: Did God get Mary pregnant the way that we get people pregnant? How do I break up with my girlfriend? Who should I pick for my football draft this week? Why exactly should I come to church? Will going to church help me play sports better? How do clams have babies?

(these are real questions)

And every time we do this, I walk away like I got slapped across the face 17.3 times. But every time they become more open to explaining their questions, laughing at my answers, and trying to figure it out on their own.

As a young adult, I have many of the same questions as them, and I tell them that. I don’t know who all goes to Heaven and what Hell is like. I can speculate. I can be gracious. I can even doubt it all together. But if I don’t have space to present my questions and my fears and my doubts, then I don’t have church.

So, here’s to two years here. I won’t be the flaky young adult that leaves when things get tough and scary. Nope, the toughness will define me and empower me.

Why Campference is the Best Weekend of My Year

junior high ministry

I just got back from #Campference with two of my best volunteers. Campference is a half-camp, half-conference event that takes place only an hour and a half away from me for middle school youth workers–it’s basically a no-brainer to go to. This weekend had some fantastic moments. Here I want to highlight why Campference is not only the best conference around, but why it becomes one of the best weekends of the year.

A tribe is in it together.  Middle school students aren’t always held in the highest regard, but middle school youth workers are kind of obsessed with them (in a healthy way). Life proves time and time again that people bond over hard things, and middle school ministry creates a bond in youth workers that is lasting. I feel like when I come to Campference, people remember the details of my ministry–even some of the silly things about it. I love that! I feel truly known by people, and I feel like I have 100 people on my team supporting me.

The vibe is real life. The joke is that Campference is “Vegas,” and everything that is shared and experienced is honored and kept in a safe place. But more than being a safe place, it’s also  a fun place. We can make poop jokes, cuss a little, and know that this is how the “real world” is, and so we don’t have to pretend around one another. Also important– no one is on a pedestal. Speakers aren’t holy gurus (only once was I caught drooling), but normal people that sit down and have normal conversations with you over normal food. This is where real conversations happen.

The breakouts apply. All the time. Even when I went to a breakout that’s name didn’t totally convince me, I walked out smarter. Why? No one is imparting some great knowledge on “lesser” youth workers. Instead, we’re having conversations and growing together. We’re taking time to take names and stories and treat each other the way we would if it was our own youth ministry. This matters–most conferences have a style that is totally opposite of what we would do during youth group. And everything applies; even the games we play as groups can be taken back home and replicated in our church.

For me, this year Campference was healing. There were things that I was able to deal with in my own heart that I needed that space for. SO, shoutout to The Youth Cartel for putting on another great event. Go to their website and buy all their stuff.

On Tweens Theologizing the Plagues

junior high ministry, youth ministry

Yesterday we talked about the Plagues with our 5th & 6th graders. We did it interactively, where our adults leaders were the Pharaoh and Egyptians, and our students acted out the plagues. After we covered our leaders in stickers, silly string, and killed all of their livestock and firstborns, we sat down to talk about it.

In my last post, I talked about scary stories. It can be hard to see God in the Bible stories that we read–how can God, a God of love and grace, send these plagues on people?

I explained first that our actions have consequences–when I was in first grade, I kept forgetting to turn my bedroom light off before I left the room. So my mother, being a creative consequencer, took away my light-bulb for a week. You could say that I had the plague of darkness.

Although that consequence may seem extreme, it was an appropriate and direct consequence for what I did. When I worked in a group home, I did the same thing: If you were late from curfew, you had that amount of time deducted the next day. If you get an F, you have to do an extra hour of studying each day per class with an F. These are direct, natural consequences.

The same happened with Pharaoh and they Egyptians: Each plague symbolized something that they idolized and put before God.

But this story isn’t about the plagues: It’s about God protecting the Israelites.

The Israelites weren’t perfect, but they did seek to honor God. So God protected them.  God went out of his way to protect them, and that’s the point of the story when talking with this age group.

So on one hand, we have a God that gives consequences when your heart is hardened and unwilling to acknowledge and turn away from your sins. God gave Pharaoh many chances. But on the other hand, when your heart recognizes when you’ve done wrong and you desire God first and foremost, he goes out of his way to protect you. God proved this through all of Exodus and again on the cross.

Our fifth and sixth graders interacted with the story in ways I couldn’t even begin to predict. They asked the hard questions:

  • If God sent plagues, then what is the difference between Him and Pharaoh?
  • What if Pharaoh had no other option but to keep the Israelites? What if, in the back of his mind, he was thinking about what he was going to lose if he let them go? I mean, I know slavery is bad and all, but if they left then who was going to do all of their work?
  • What if Pharaoh wasn’t the bad guy? What if he had a lot of people telling him what to do, and so he just did what they said?
  • Why would God hurt all of the Egyptians and save all of the Israelites? What if there were some good Egyptians? What if there were some bad Israelites?
  • How do we know that the Bible has the whole story in it?
  • How do we know the Bible is true?

We affirmed their questions and told them we had the same. We also let them give their own answers.

Some of the things they came up with blew me away:

  • In ancient cultures, they worshiped everything and had an idol for everything. So by doing so many different kinds of plagues, God was showing he had power over everything.
  • Maybe God hardened Pharaoh’s heart because He knew Pharaoh wasn’t going to budge. So He hardened it so Pharaoh would go, “All right–GO!”
  • This is what faith means: trusting even when you don’t understand.
  • The story is bigger than what we read.

I love tweens because they aren’t afraid to ask the hard questions. Unlike older students and adults, they won’t not ask questions because they’re afraid of what other people will think of them. They are unashamed and will shout it out because they feel like they have this urgent need to know.

At the National Youth Worker’s Convention of 2013, one speaker said, “Teens are natural theologians. . . adults often have this natural gift socialized out of them.”

I’m so blessed to be in a field where I theologize with tweens.

Oh, and PS, after all those hard conversations, a new student says, “Wait, I have a question! …What is livestock?”

Stay humbled, my friends.

Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 1 Timothy 4:12

Providing Perfection to Students

girls ministry, junior high ministry, youth ministry

During our Local Missions Trip, some of my precious junior high girls and I somehow found ourselves chilling in my office (how we fit so many of us in there kills me–we must have really been trying to escape those boys!).  We were playing board games, when one of them found my memory box. I was going through it, sharing funny stories about  the moments from past churches.

One of the girls then asked me, “Are you going to be here very long?”


Youth pastors in general have a problem with not sticking around very long. Add in the Millennial factor, and we’re flightier than migrating geese.  Our students in my church have especially been victims of youth leaders who were only around 2-3 years, with exception of our head director.

I don’t want to be one of those people who leaves when things get tough–and I’ve certainly had a boot camp in my first 8 months here! I want to remember, when I’m burned out from mission trips and kickoffs and spending so much time away from my one-eyed cat, that the reason I do this is to give my precious students some sort of consistency in their life. I may not be perfect, but what I can provide for them is exactly what they need.

So then, my girls and I sprinkled wish dust and painted our nails. And then played “Fodgeball” with the boys, fog machines, and strobe lights. A perfect night in junior high ministry.

What can you do to make sure that you stick with it? What can your church do?

What #OC14 Taught Me

christianity, junior high ministry, leadership, lgbtq, Ministry, youth ministry

I went to Orange for the first time last week, making that my third ministry conference experience in the last 14 months! Here comes Middle School Campference this fall! :)

Here is the 900-word summary of what I learned:

Youth Ministry is about the Family.

Doug Fields said, “You may be a children’s or youth worker, but you’re also doing marriage ministry.”

Let’s get real: Programs compete with the family. My junior high Sunday nights do nothing to serve the family; it just takes students away from their one family night. If I care about my students, then I care about the time they spend with their families; therefore I need to make sure they get as much time there as possible.

When there’s an issue in the church, we try to answer it with programs.  Heather Zempel said, “Programs to not disciple people. People disciple people.”  She also said, “Instead of finding people to serve structures, find structures that serve people.”

In Reggie Joiner’s breakout, he gave two pointers for ministers in their 20s that I keep thinking about. The first is applicable here: Be intentional about keeping things simple. Yearly decide what to stop in order to do other things better. That doesn’t mean to just get rid of something that’s not working. True leadership comes when you prune strong stuff to make the weak show its potential.

Tension is GOOD.

Reggie gave a message that made my SBC brain officially reconcile with my new UMC ministry.

There are all of these tensions: “I believe that the Bible is God’s word and authoritative” no longer has to compete with “This person needs love.” Reggie Joiner said (something like), “If your beliefs are hurting people, then it is time to reevaluate your beliefs.” He also said, “Kids should feel safe enough to process their doubt so they can own their faith.”

Truth no longer competes with Grace. The Church no longer has to compete with the World. Faith no longer has to compete with Doubt. They can work together, constantly be in tension with one another, and that’s beautiful. You can know God with all your heart, and he can still be a huge mystery. You no longer have to pick one or another; there is no sacrifice in living with tension.

“Say yes to beliefs that matter. Say yes to people who matter more.

“Say yes to the uncomfortable moments to see lives changed.”

Volunteers need to be owners, not renters.

Reggie Joiner said in a breakout that one of the keys to having a ministry that disciples kids instead of babysitting them is having weekly volunteers who are invested. Having rotating volunteers does nothing for ministry. He said, “You may be teaching kids truth each week with a different leader, but you’re not discipling them.”  He also pointed out that leaders may not understand the need to be there each week because they don’t understand the importance. He said, “People don’t commit to weekly because we haven’t invited them to commit to something significant.”  Our family pastor who was with us, David Williamson, added in our staff discussion: “Are you asking for less of a commitment from volunteers than you expect from attending families?” Brilliant. So brilliant. I plan to blog about this in abundance.

Sue Miller then used an analogy in her breakout about how volunteers need to be owners, and not renters. Owners see a problem in their home and they fix it. Renters call the landlord and expect them to fix it.  We have to convince our volunteers to commit to and sign the mortgage, and be realistic that it may cost them something. They need to learn that it is THEIR house and THEIR ministry…and that they are on a team of people who feel the same. Sue said, “It’s easy to leave a task, but few will leave a family…When volunteers rent, they don’t get deep enough to join a family.”

Jeff Henderson said something that will preach all day, “You will never experience what the church can do for you until you see what the church can do through you.”

We can talk about homosexuality.

Andy Stanley gave the most loving, inclusive talk on same-sex attraction I have ever heard. No matter where your stance is on the subject theologically, it is difficult to argue with Andy on his approach to talking with middle schoolers. Andy said that his church has adopted this statement: “We believe the church should be the safest place to talk about anything, including same-sex attraction.”

Andy reminded us that the answers we give to our kids are the answers that they will have with them for the rest of their lives… Jeff Henderson said that “sometimes ministry gets in the way of ministering.” Sometimes we have to put our personal beliefs on hold to love a kid where they’re at. But especially with junior highers, we don’t need to get into theology. We need to get into Grace. We need to get into Love. And we need to get into the Truth that Jesus loves us right where we’re at. That’ll preach!

One last thought from Jon Acuff: “God will never be handcuffed by the failures nor unleashed by the successes of your ministry.”

And from Mark Batterson: “In an argument with God you need to lose so that you can win.” Because “sometimes God shows up, and sometimes God shows off.”

What did you guys learn at Orange? My head is spinning. :)

Being Myself in Ministry

Blogs about Heather, junior high ministry

People who are unashamedly and unapologetically themselves have always drawn me in.

My little sister is a great example of this: She is an over-active, over-hyper, extra-stimulated version of myself. I appreciate that, because she doesn’t change that part of herself for anybody.

I did.

Most of my childhood and teenage years, the parts of me that were outgoing and extroverted were quenched by people who labeled me as “obnoxious.”

That part of me never left, but it definitely matured. And thankfully so–I knew that my desire to be the center of attention had a great heart behind it (a heart to please people and affirm them), yet it left a taste in peoples’ mouths because of my lack of maturity to properly channel my energy.

Working primarily in junior high for the past three months has brought out this “true self” of mine–someone who is outgoing, loves people, and outrageous at times.

Here’s the difference, though:
Young me wasn’t comfortable with my personality.
New me is unapologetic for the way that I’m wired.

Last week a coworker pinpointed me as an “ENFJ” from the Meyer-Briggs. An ENFJ is an extrovert with an introverted intuition that molds to situations and desires to meet people where they are.

This means that I can be obnoxious during a game or announcements, but when I teach my priorities shift. My deepest desire isn’t to entertain students, but to provide them a comfortable place to grow in God and in community with others.

“Old Heather” was an entertainer from her own self-loathing. “New Heather” uses her awkwardness and ability to make fun of herself to show Junior Highers that they can be their true self.  “Old Heather” wasn’t comfortable with the quiet. “New and Improving Heather” requires down-time and doesn’t see it as “nobody loves me and I have no friends and that’s why no one asked me to hang out on a Friday night and I’m eating an entire pizza.” There’s a balance now :)

Ministry is bringing the “real me” out. When processing this with a coworker, he said that is the entire point of this whole thing–so many of us put on a different voice and personality when we step behind a pulpit. We try to be something we’re not in ministry–and as we all know, it is tiring trying to be someone you’re not.

If I believe that it important to provide a place for students to be themselves, than I need to be myself. Sure, that self is kind of obnoxious at times. Sure, that self is in a process of maturity and learning how to better filter thoughts. Yet, at the same time, my obnoxiousness is a reflection of God’s zeal and passion for us.

What about you? Are you your true personality with students? What does that honestly look like?