I have spent most of my life attending church. As a young girl, I was made to believe the church was my safe place. I trusted the pastor’s words. This was the appointed shepherd and I was instructed to be the sheep. While I was told to study the word myself, I was taught the pastor would guide me. For years I was actively involved. I started as an usher in my primary years and moved to the choir as a teenager. During college I attended church on campus and although I chose not to become involved in any of the ministries, I attended church regularly. After completing college, I returned back to my home church and immediately joined the choir again.
As I became older and wiser, I decided I wanted to share with the youth in our church so I joined the youth ministry as a volunteer. After several years of serving as a volunteer, I stepped into the position of Assistant Youth Director. I was the assistant for approximately three months before the director quit in the middle of a meeting. As I stood there floored, not knowing what to say, the pastor looked at me and said, “I guess you’re in charge now.”
I started in my role immediately and the first year I mimicked the ideas and activities of the previous director. The second year I asked my brother to join me in leadership and we grew the program, as much in numbers as we did in Christ. And then we started to have fun! Fun included Youth Sundays, Wednesday night Bible Study, Fall Festivals and fundraising activities that included the kids learning how to take ownership and operate a store. We were all learning and growing!
And then one day the former director, the one that quit, decided she wanted to organize a project with the Youth Department. But she didn’t speak to me or my brother, or even our faithful and diligent assistants; she went to the pastor with her ideas. He willingly agreed to allow her to complete some activities with the kids without speaking to the directors. While that was heartbreaking, what made it worse was she asked him to use money we had worked tirelessly earning to reward our kids. It was at that moment we found out the money the kids had spent countless Saturdays and Sundays earning was gone. Apparently the church had found themselves in a bind and used the money, that only two people were supposed to have access to, to get themselves out of the financial ruin during that moment. Now I’m a pretty understanding person but when I asked the pastor why was I not made aware of the money situation, he responded, “Because it wasn’t your business.” Aht Aht, wrong answer!
My brother and I, along with our spouses, worked countless hours making the youth department functional. We were all proud to be a part of the organization. I watched football players come to activities before practices and after games. The commitment was a glorious site. I could not allow someone to believe this was acceptable behavior and I would never allow the kids to believe it was okay to be mistreated in this manner. So I called a meeting, expressed my concerns and resigned, effective immediately. That was 18 years ago and our church has yet to produce a quality, long standing youth department. As a result, we are seeing members walk away because they don’t feel there is any growth for their children, in our church.
The way this story ended still hurts to this day. Not because I didn’t heal from the actions of the pastor, but because there were kids that wanted to experience what our Youth Department was offering and they felt cheated because they never had a first class encounter as a member of the youth department. I offer this advice to all people when dealing with church affairs, “Your actions can heal or kill a church. Choose your actions wisely.” While I have not allowed this experience to influence my relationship with God, it has definitely influenced the ministries I choose to work with. I attempted to work with the Youth Department once again but I found no pleasure in it. I still support our youth but I have found another ministry that allows me to serve God’s people without anyone being blindsided.
Have you ever experienced this level of hurt in your church? How did you respond? Better yet, do you think the pastor should have this level of control?
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