I remember the day I really became a youth minister. It was a cool, fall morning in Wisconsin, and as I rolled out of bed at 11:45 AM and like a zombie walked toward my closet, my heavy eyes searched for some daily attire. I pulled out a t-shirt.
“Come Alive – Retreat 2011.” And then another, “Rooted – Summer Camp 2009.”
A third retreat, “Jesus is a friend of mine” – Youth Group 1997.” And then a fourth, fifth, and sixth.
It had officially happened; the volume of retreat shirts had surpassed my supply of “normal people clothing.” To be honest, I don’t know what happened to my other t-shirts – it was like overnight my retreat shirt from 2007 had witnessed to my other clothing about Jesus and convinced them to convert to poorly designed, 50/50 polyester blend, covered in Christian catch-phrases.
See, as a youth minister, I took several trips with teens during the year and they all necessitated a t-shirt. Not only do matching t-shirts help you keep track of the teens, but you also get to judge how “cool” or “lame” other groups’ t-shirts are in comparison to yours. As a bonus, you got a free t-shirt to keep for the next 15 years. I looked at it as my parish budget’s way of “clothing the naked.”
Over the years those t-shirts stacked up. Thankfully, as a youth minister nobody expected me to ever dress up for work, so I could totally rock the “youth group t-shirt with cargo shorts” look day in and day out. People just expected that I was dressed that way in case an ultimate Frisbee game broke out and I needed to go do some ministry.
Even if your wardrobe doesn’t consist entirely of t-shirts that recall memories of youth group days gone by, I bet you at least have a few. And I bet sometimes, on a cold Saturday morning, you put one of those shirts on and say, “Shine Jesus Shine ‘95 – one of the best.”
Wear it proudly – you’re in good company.
What is does your favorite youth group/retreat t-shirt say?