I feel as if I have been in high school forever. Sure, I went to college, worked fulltime, got married, and had a baby. But the reason I feel that way is because I’ve been serving in the high school ministry at Harvest ever since I was in high school, for the past 10 years! And now, it seems like graduation time has come as the Lord is directing Michelle and I into a new season of life and ministry (I can hear the graduation song now, thanks to my wife’s affection for High School Musical 3). I was recently asked to serve as a Pastor at Harvest, particularly over the South Corona campus and other help ministries. We are very excited to follow the Lord’s leading, but of course, we will miss the high school ministry!
Student ministries will always have a special place in my heart. I was first invited to church as a sophomore in high school. As I attended the youth group I came to learn about God and the message of the gospel, and I became a Christian. I was baptized at the first summer camp I attended right before my senior year. After graduation, I started to serve and get involved in leadership, where I developed the majority of my closest friendships. Best of all, I met my wife, Michelle, while serving together. And then the Lord provided me an opportunity to serve on staff as an assistant. My time in the ministry has surely been full of God’s grace and love towards me.
As I reflect on all that God has done in my life, both as a student and as a leader in the ministry, I think about how influential the truths of Christianity are in the lives of young people. As I follow the Lord’s leading into new ministries, I want to briefly share the most impacting lesson that I have learned in the high school ministry: students are stewards. I believe that the high school years provide an incredibly formidable time for students to develop and cultivate stewardship in many areas of life, particularly in being stewards over their time, talent, treasure, trust, and truth.
And because it is within our youth that the trajectory of life is built upon, it is so important for students to understand such truths. As J.C. Ryle writes,
“Experience tells me that people’s hearts are seldom changed if they are not changed when young. Seldom indeed are men converted when they are old. Habits have deep roots. Once sin is allowed to settle in your heart, it will not be turned out at your bidding. Custom becomes second nature, and its chains are not easily broken.”
Time: We all have the same amount of time in the day, and whether students are crammed with AP classes or are bored staring at a screen for hours, one thing is for sure: our youth provides us with an unparalleled season and time in life for potential growth. Just look at your picture from freshmen year to senior year! Instead of taking a vacation from responsibility, so many students have taken advantage of this season of life to accomplish great things as they love God and love others. As Solomon would say, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth” (Eccl. 12:1). Don’t waste the time of your youth!
Talent: It’s in this season of life that many young people discover what they’re good at and what they like to do. Whether its education, sports, technology, the arts, service to others, etc., so many gifts, traits, and characteristics are developed at a young age. Instead of using these for self-glorification, it’s a joy to see students who live in a selfie generation use their spiritual gifts and talents for the glory of God and for the good of others. One of the joys of youth ministry has been to help students discover and develop their God-given abilities for the flourishing of society and the building-up of the Church. Don’t waste your talent!
Treasure: Every kid learns to say “mine!” at a young age, but it’s in the teen years that responsibility really starts to develop, whether for good stewardship or irresponsibility. As students get jobs, plan for college and future careers, it’s an amazing thing to see a young person realize that their money and possessions come from the Lord and that they can use their resources to invest in the kingdom of God. It’s also been a blessing to see so many students gain support and pay their own way for various ministry trips and events. Such experiences have long-term effects as they loosen the grip of selfishness in order to enjoy the blessing of reaching out to others. Don’t waste your treasure!
Trust: So many lifelong friendships are formed in the high school years. And it’s in this time that students are given the great responsibility of trust. It can be argued that the most important thing in life is relationships, as seen in loving God and others (Matt. 22:37-40). And so there is no greater investment than in people—to love, serve, and invest in others for their well-being. Besides the baby-mamma-drama and gossip of so many high school social-media based “friendships,” the meaningful trust that is developed among BFF’s and besties provides a framework for future responsibility in relationships. It’s been such a joy to meet so many great young people and to develop friendships that will last long beyond their time as students. Don’t waste your trust!
Truth: There is one thing that changes everything about stewardship: God’s truth. Because we are stewards of the truth about life, it changes our view on time, talent, treasure, and trust. It takes the focus off of selfish desires and places it in the right perspective as revealed in God’s Word. There has been no greater joy in youth ministry than seeing students come to know the truth, walk in the truth, share the truth, and to be set free by its life-giving, liberating power (John 8:32). This will always be fresh in my mind as I vividly remember first hearing about the truth of gospel as a student, and as I’ve seen so many students share it with their peers. Don’t waste the truth!
As I reflect on my time in youth ministry, and as I transition into a new season of life and ministry, I think of the one statement that motivated me to minister to students and that encapsulates their amazing potential for growth in godliness: Don’t Waste Your Youth.
It’s been a joy to serve,
Pastor KC McCauley