Lets face it, being an intern can be hard. Doing all the little things, none of the glory. But
transitioning into a staff position…well lets say maybe being an intern wasn’t so bad.
Now all the weight of my “great ideas” falls on me when something goes wrong. There
are later nights, earlier mornings, and way more fun to be had. Now I’m the guy in charge
of a budget, events, and a whole crew of leaders. It is a lot of work, but I wouldn’t trade
any of it…well, except for the time I lost a game and had to eat dead bugs off the front of
the bus.

The transition from intern to staff was an interesting ride. There were a lot of mixed
feelings. There were students who felt upset because I wasn’t exactly the same as their old youth pastor. I didn’t act like him, look like him, or smell like him. Leaders who moved away and went off to college, leaving me to pick up the pieces. It was a hard transition for everyone.

Things weren’t measuring up to what I had expected them to be. I had this huge idea in
my head for six years that some day I was going to be a youth pastor. While I was
working at a bank saving up money to start the internship I would frequently tell myself,
“This will all come to an end. There is something greater for me.” But when the day
finally came that I got the title of Pastoral Assistant and my dreams had become a
reality—I didn’t feel like celebrating. Instead, I felt this empty feeling in my stomach and
thought, “Is this it? Is this what I was working so hard for?”

I felt like I had no direction for the rest of my life. Kind of a weird thing for a 24 year old
person to think. I didn’t know what was next. I thought, “I’m a youth pastor, now what do
I do? What is my next goal?” All I could think about was how many new students we
could get to come on Wednesday and different things we would need to do to get more
and more students. Was this what my life was coming down to? How much I could grow
the group? Rather than caring about sharing Jesus with students, I felt this need to
prove myself with numbers, because I was in charge. All this despite my overseeing
pastor telling me over and over how he wanted quality not quantity, how his goal for me
was to see me lead a group of students and leaders to Jesus. But for some reason my
thoughts began to switch directions and now it was all about how big we could get.

Thankfully my intern training kicked in and I went straight to my quiet place (the
emergency exit stairs in the basement of the church). I got away and spent some quality
time with God. After spending significant amount of time with God, I felt a new reason
for being a youth pastor. God reminded me why I wanted to do this in the first place. In
that time I felt God tell me the exact same things my overseeing pastor had told me.
The only difference was that it came from God. I had a whole new purpose now. This
ignited a fire inside me—a fire to lead as many students to Jesus as I can. This is what drives me today and it is what drove me through the other hard times I am about to share.

The other hard issue I faced was the adult leaders leaving. It seemed all was against
me for a while. Half the group of leaders that were originally helping at the youth group
decided to move away. The others had kids, moved away to college or just didn’t like the new style of leadership. This left a gaping hole in the group of leaders we had. I ended up having to recruit an entirely new team of leaders. While I wouldn’t recommend this, it ended up turning out for the better, like it was God’s plan all along :). Because of this I have grown as a leader and a follower of Jesus—my character was tested, my devotion to God’s calling on my life was tested, it felt as if there wasn’t an area in my life that was left untouched.

The hardest thing about the transition from intern to staff was the reaction from some of
the students. My original expectations were that they would welcome me with open
arms and stinky armpits. I had read many articles about transitions in youth groups and
how it is normal for students to leave. But, for some reason, I thought I would be
exception to this rule. But sure enough I was not. Many students left the group and on
their way out the door, they said some pretty hurtful things. I was not prepared for this. Not only did students decide they didn’t like me but they talked their friends into not liking me. Over time we lost a fair number of students.

But, as time has gone on students have gotten used to who I am. They have acclimated
to how I operate and are giving me a second chance. Many of these students have
returned, and some have apologized for not giving me a chance before they decided
they didn’t like me. This has given me the opportunity to reconcile relationships and
build relational equity with students and their families.

The transition from intern to staff was a very interesting one. I experienced hurt and
disappointment along the way. However, I also experienced a lot of encouragement. God
continues to show me exactly why he asked me to be a youth pastor. If there is one
thing we all need to remember, it is why we got into this in the first place. It isn’t for glory
or the money, ha!—but to see people come face to face with Jesus and walk away a
completely new person, and in some cases that person is us! That is why I continue to
do what I do—I am completely sold out to seeing students come to know Jesus and
have their lives transformed and I love the way God is changing me while I’m serving
him.

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