I said, “No way,” to God four times before I agreed to volunteer.
I remember being asked and each time refusing. I had this whole list of reasons why I said no, but I learned God had another story he wanted to write through me. Volunteering as a youth leader at BelPres for six years has been, hands down, the biggest privilege of my life. I didn’t serve students; they served me with their contagious enthusiasm, the ability to have fun in the midst of any circumstance, and through their radical love that comes from Jesus.
The best part of my job today is working with our volunteer leaders and watching them with our students. They are the true heroes who give up weeknights, sleep in bunk beds, and respond to late night texts from worried students or those who just to talk. I asked two of our leaders to share a bit of their experience. Mike Standard has been serving for three years now, and does not let his age stop him from doing anything:
“Two years ago I was asked to consider being part of the high school ministry. I was 73 years old, and they wanted me to be involved with high school students. I said I would pray about it. I began coming to Wednesday night youth group, and I fell in love with these students. Other adult volunteers encouraged me. During the summer, activities were held outside in parks. I decided to stay on for my second year.
Last summer I took a risk and signed on to be a leader for Extreme Week, four days of rafting on the Klamath River in Northern California. I had the time of my life. I was blessed by the love and care the students showed to this old man! I enjoyed the rafting experience, worship in the evening, and sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag!
This fall I was teamed up with another adult to lead a small group of young men every Wednesday night. In November, I went on the Fall Retreat and was a cabin leader for the boys in my small group. I was asked to lead the devotional time for all the leaders and students on Saturday morning. That was a new experience for me, but so many students encouraged me and I was amazed to see them listening and praying to God.
I am convinced that one is never too old to participate with high schoolers. I believe Jesus is stretching me to grow in my relationship with Jesus and share that with high school students. This church has some really awesome students to walk with.”
Also not letting age hold her back is Paisley Showalter, a young adult at BelPres who just started leading in the fall. I am constantly impressed with her ability to connect with girls.
“I started volunteering with the High School Ministry last fall. I felt a nudge, that was not my own, to help either the high school or middle school department. Daniel and Danielle, on separate occasions, had mentioned that if I was ever interested to stop by. I was hooked three minutes in the first Wednesday night High School Youth Group I attended.
I thought I knew exactly what I was signing up for as a leader, but I was wrong. I expected to fill a role, be a helper, or act as a counselor to these kids. As a leader I get to help them understand God’s infinite love for them throughout their school week. As much as I attempt to do this for them each week, they have done the same for me. My boyfriend leads in the middle school group. Each Wednesday, as we leave church after serving, we can barely contain our enthusiasm. We drive away smiling, laughing, and sharing the amazing ways God is working through our small groups and directly through our students. God is working within the BelPres high school and middle school ministries. Whether you are a leader or a student, a community, no, a family, has been built.”
Watching these two volunteers with the high school students is a blessing. I hope I grow up to be like Mike. It was pure joy to watch him laughing as he was rafting down the river in the 110 degree California heat last summer surrounded by teenagers. A few weeks ago, Paisley happened to be sick and could not come to youth group. When I greeted one student at the door with a warm hello, she immediately asked, “Where is Paisley?” I could not help but smile. I want to thank all of our volunteer leaders who give their time and talents to simply do life with students at BelPres.