In the life of a youth minister there are many defining moments – the first time you hear a teen say, “Thank you, that was a great Life Night,” and really mean it or the first time you dress up in a goofy costume for a pulpit announcement in order to get teenagers to come to a Life Night. There is one moment that I know was definitive for my ministry career – my first long bus trip with teenagers.
We were driving from a town near Green Bay, WI to Steubenville Atlanta with 55 teenagers, 8 adults, a newly ordained priest, and me. As we all piled onto a coach bus, ready for the 12 hour trip down to Atlanta, a thought crossed my mind:
“I am now responsible for the lives and well being of over 60 people and an ordained member of the clergy who has never been to a youth conference before.”
I felt the blood rush out of my face and my legs get wobbly. Here I stood, no more than 23 years old and I suddenly was the patriarch of a very large, very crazy family. I needed to make sure they got enough sleep, enough food, didn’t annoy each other, didn’t sit too close, and that they all made friends with one another during that fateful bus ride where anything could happen. I mean, on a bus with teens for 12 hours a lot can go wrong:
The A/C could go out making for one long, sweaty bus ride in the mid-July heat.
We could get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, waiting for hours for help to arrive and be forced to play endless rounds of “signs (A.K.A. the invisible ball),” and “Johnny Whoop.”
A teen could get food poisoning and projectile vomit all over the bus – and what if that happens when the A/C is out?
And on top of all that, what if we get attacked by bears?
Okay – perhaps my mind wandered a little bit on that last one, but still, I can say that as I stepped onto that bus of rowdy teenagers, excited adults, and one very confused priest, I had a newly renewed sense of trust in God. I mean, what other choice did I have?
I miss those bus rides. As terrifying as it was to be in charge of 64 people, it was so humbling that God had put me there to keep them safe so He could do His work. And on some of those bus rides people did get sick, and the A/C once went out, and we did get a flat tire that forced us to play a solid three hours of cheesy youth ministry games. But through it all there was great relational ministry, lots of laughs, and conversion.
And if it takes me getting on a bus for 12 hours with a crazy bunch of teens so they can know Jesus – I’ll take that leap of faith every time.
Question: What is your favorite long bus ride activity?