What is This Without the Next

by: Michael Gilliam

Seven years. That's how long I've been a youth pastor. Sometimes I wonder if time given in student ministry should be weighed similarly to dog years. Every two months often feels like an entire year. Every year often feels like seven. And while some may say that's a cynical way of looking at ministry, I'm wanting to paint a very real picture for everyone. It's not a breeze. It's not something to take light-heartedly. Student ministry, at its finest, is work. But it's work that is worth something.

image (4).jpeg

Part of being an effective youth pastor is noticing trends in subcultures. Having been a part of the Instagram community now for just over a year, something I've noticed is that we are a community hungry for moments in life that are worth something. We seek. We document. We adventure after these things. In the big moments and the small, we are celebrationists of finding worth. And if there is one thing in life I've come to find deserves putting worth in it is the next generation. Think about it ... who are we without those before us? Where would you be without the loving council your leaders gave you? Or the gentle nudge to follow your heart when the world said to do otherwise? In the same way, I often ask myself, who are we without the next?

This shot is part of @dereckcarter's #derekcarter_freeforall but my edit and type

This shot is part of @dereckcarter's #derekcarter_freeforall but my edit and type

The apostle Paul said that we could have thousands of men and women tutor us on life but what truly matters is having a spiritual father/mother to put the work and care into someone (1 Corinthians 4:15). I never want to be known as a tutor when I should have been a father. A father shares everything with his son ... the victories he has won and the failures he has learned from. It's through this transparency that we see the next generation equipped. It's through this that we see the body of Christ matured. One author goes as far as to say, "Success without a successor is a failure."

Christ fully embodies that message. He lived and breathed discipleship. And it was this fatherly mentality that motivated His last words in the Great Commission, "Go therefore and make disciples." Our ceiling should become the ground floor for the next. And while some days it appears to be difficult, toilsome and moving as fast as dog years; it's worth it. Let's make time. Let's adventure after. And as we go, let's take someone with us.

Michael Gilliam is the youth pastor and Creative Director at Illuminate Youth in Shawnee, Oklahoma. You can follow along with him @michael_gilliam.