The Best “Youth Pastor” I Ever Had

pastor-micah-marshall-THE-REFUGE

He was the complete opposite of this guy.

You might be surprised to learn that the best youth pastor I ever had was not a youth pastor at all. At least, not in the official sense. He was simply a church deacon who taught the teen Sunday school class.

Don would have never been hired to lead a high-profile youth ministry. He was not what today’s church administrators would call hip, cool or “relevant.” He didn’t wear skinny jeans. He didn’t play guitar or have a tattoo. He probably couldn’t pronounce the words ‘latte’ or ‘espresso,’ let alone tell you what they mean. He couldn’t name a single contemporary Christian band. He had never set foot on a college campus, Christian or otherwise. His wife wasn’t a former cheerleader with a perky personality or a Cover Girl smile. In fact, the man himself was in his early 40s, rotund, with a slow Southern drawl and neatly trimmed beard. He wore the same clothes every Sunday: a white dress shirt, black or brown pants and plain black shoes. He didn’t own a cell phone, an iPad, or even an email address.

Yet this extremely reserved, humble, down-to-earth deacon of a backwater Southern church uttered seven words that likely saved me from a lifetime of pain and poor decisions:

“Sex is only 10 percent of marriage.” 

As a young woman, I needed to hear those words. I was about 16 at the time and in a rush to find my future husband so I could finally experience this thing called sex. Oh, to be a married woman! I could just imagine it. I was going to have sex three times a day, every day. I was going to do it whenever I wanted on whatever flat surface happened to present itself. Sex was going to fix all of my problems. It was going to bring me the intimacy and companionship that I desperately craved, satisfy my aching loneliness, cure my lack of self-confidence, end my battle with lust, and make me someone worth envying.

(It would astound you to know how many young Christian women think like this–and the kind of trouble to which it leads.)

Don’s words that day awoke me to reality. He told us how marriage is mostly about living day-to-day with our spouses. Talking to our spouses. Raising children with our spouses. Resolving conflicts with our spouses. Learning to tolerate and appreciate our spouses’ quirks and inconsistencies. Depending on whom we married, it could either be a worthwhile challenge or a hellish nightmare. Sex only enhances marriage; it isn’t significant enough to solve anything.

(After six years of marriage, I have discovered the truth of these words firsthand.)

This wasn’t an easy speech for Don. He blushed a bit and stammered a lot. Fortunately, he did not allow his personal discomfort to get in the way of communicating information that he believed was vital for our development into mature, empowered adults. After all, that’s what youth ministry is about. Not Fear Factor-type games or heavy metal worship, but equipping young saints with the godly wisdom they need to lead stable, faith-filled lives.

If only more actual youth pastors understood that.

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One response to “The Best “Youth Pastor” I Ever Had

  1. Good for you April. I have been married for 34 years, and the advice was spot on. Biologically, marriage was meant for age 12, and for most of human history (in many cases) people were allowed or even expected to be married at such ages. Our society demands a 6-year or more waiting period so the old can clear out the Age 65+ end to make room for the new, which apparently requires a persistent lag time. Teenage pregnancy out of wedlock is the price we pay for that.