This blog really has a dual purpose. First and foremost, I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved with The Hills Church of Christ 24:7 Student Ministry, to any degree, for changing and shaping my life. The second purpose is to brag on what an amazing student ministry 24:7 has been, and will continue to be in the future. But first, a disclaimer..
*In no way, shape, or form does my declaration of immense gratitude to all 24:7 related parties signify the end of my contact with said parties, or the participation in said ministry. I plan on staying active in the lives of those at The Hills, and will be as involved as humanly possible while living three hours away. You can’t get rid of me that easily.*
Now before the tears start flowing, thank you…
The Hills Elders and Senior Staff: Thank you for being possibly the most loving and caring church leaders on the planet. While The Hills is the only church I’ve attended regularly for the last 13 years, I’m well aware that many church leaders do not look upon the youth of their congregation with the same fondness and respect I have seen from you. I love that you have thrown out the old saying that “children are the church of tomorrow” and have actively sought to make us a part of the church today. I can’t imagine other churches having most of the senior staff speak for the youth group on an annual basis like Rick Atchley, Cary Branscum, Mike Washburn, Charley Taylor, and many others have now done the past few years. Even more incredible is the way you have attempted to integrate teens into the church wide ministry boards whether it be Men’s ministry, Women’s ministry, or Missions. Saying that we are the church of today is one thing, but asking us to take responsibility for what is going on in the church is another level of confidence that means the world to me and many others who want to feel like an important part of the church. Thank you to the elders who constantly prayed over us before retreats, camps, mission trips. The words of blessing sometimes spoken at 7am or earlier on a Saturday morning mean more than I can fully appreciate. Thank you for the way you treat the youth staff. From watching and hearing stories of how my dad was treated by elders and senior staff as a youth minister, I should have no desire to become one. But because of the love and respect I have seen you give Dave, Jason, Darin, Melanie, and Nicole, I have hope for my future church to want show Christ to all they meet, regardless of age.
The 24:7 Youth Staff: Thank you for literally changing the course of my life. I have no idea where I would be going and what I would be doing with my life if it wasn’t for your love and example. It was 8th grade when I first decided I wanted to become a youth minister. At that point it was just cause I loved worship and liked the idea of going to camps and retreats and getting paid for it. But over the last four years, especially this past year, you have taught me what being a youth minister really means. It is so much more than anyone on the outside could ever imagine. You have let me in on the heart of 24:7. You’ve shown me hearts aren’t always pretty; tensions flare, stresses rise, patiences are tested, and heartaches happen. But the joy I’ve seen radiate through you in spite of all you have seen is what is truly inspiring. Thank you Darin and Melanie for getting me hooked on 24:7. Until E-camp my 6th grade year I wanted nothing to do with 24:7 and the OKC and Little Rock mission trips made me realize the joys of serving others. Thank you Jeff and Jason Allen for being a light in my life from another campus. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with each of you on trips. Southlake and WFW are in excellent hands with the two of you at the helm. God is doing amazing things through you. Thank you Nicole for the impact you made on so many teens lives while you were here. I learned a lot from hearing stories of you counseling students and watching you work in the lives of many of my friends on incredibly intimate levels. Nashville is ridiculously blessed to have you changing lives there. You and Melanie have been shining examples that women are needed in youth ministry. Thank you John for all the things that you have done with the band and your creative inputs throughout the ministry. Also thanks for helping me realize I could sing. Leading worship with you is one of my absolute favorite experiences in 24:7. Thank you to Jason and Dave for putting so much into my life to help me grow foremost as a man of God, but also as a future youth minister. The experiences you have given me I wouldn’t trade for anything. Whether it was letting me on staff at e-camp, taking me on speaking engagements, letting me teach lessons, or just talking with me about life, you have shaped the way I look at life and at ministry specifically. If I could be half the men you are, I would be perfectly content with my character and my ability to minister. Thank you to all the staff on each campus for being an example of Christ to so many teens over the years and for years to come.
The Adult Volunteers: Thank you for being what likely separates 24:7 the most from other student ministries. I have never seen such a large group of adults care so deeply about kids that were not their own. However, many of you have treated me like one of your own and because of that I am truly blessed. D-groups have shown me what it means for the body of Christ to raise children. The love that I have felt from The Wards, Halls, Peschells, Jones, and all the other parents of my class involved has kept me on the path for years now. I love knowing that just because I’m farther away the relationships don’t end and you will continue to make sure I’m on the path. Thank you to the Herrera’s. Brian and Angela, you have been actual family to me and I often forget we aren’t actually related. It feels like I have known you forever but its really been less than three years. But in that time you have opened up your home and opened up your lives for me and so many others. Your transparency is inspiring and your willingness to give advice and encouragement is wonderful. I don’t know what I would do without your family. Thank you to all the volunteers who have simply talked with me and encouraged me throughout my 24:7 experience. Without you 24:7 would not be the safe place it has been for countless teens who desperately needed caring and Godly adults in their lives.
The Students: Thank you. I am honestly at a loss on how to display the affection I have for all of you. I have been blessed by so many who have come and graduated before me but blessed my life and gave their friendship to me. I have so many dear friends in classes behind me who consider me a role model but I learn more from them than they possibly could from me. Awesome things are going to happen through 24:7 because of those of you who will be leading in the years to come. Thank you most of all to my fellow graduates. We did it. We made it through the hell that was middle school and thrived in the joys and pains of high school because of the bond we have with each other through Christ. I have no doubt that I have been a part of the greatest class to have ever gone through 24:7. The things that you all will do with your lives for the Kingdom are limitless. I don’t know what to say other than each one of you has my undying love and regardless of us going separate ways, we are still the body of Christ. In times of joy, we will be there. In times of pain, we will be there. In times of normality, we will be there. In times of uncertainty, we will be there. When time is no more and Heaven has come to earth, we will be there.
“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” -Jeremiah 24:7