Herbert, Caleb, Shane, Scammell and Moder

Cameron’s Wedding – Spring 2015, 20 years of NLCC youth ministry representing!

20 years ago I had just stepped into the biggest job of my life. Even though I had 9 years of youth ministry under my belt, it had all been at small churches of under 300 in size. Somehow, I had landed the best job in the region, working for Bruce Miles, a leader’s leader, whom everybody in my tribe wanted to work for. Bruce had planted a new church in N. Idaho that just exploded with growth. It’s first Sunday saw multiple services and over 400 in attendance. By the time I joined the staff, 3 1/2 yrs later, the church had 1800 people coming each weekend, and I was to be their first full time youth worker.

I got to build a program from the ground up. There were only 5 full time pastors in our entire church at the time, and we worked our asses off to try to keep up with growth. Our boys were 3 yrs and 6 months old at the time, I had no concept of how much the people I would do life with over the next 5 years would impact me and my boys for the rest of my life. This is my 30th year of working with teenagers, and I value every place I have worked, but those 5 years and the relationships we built there continue to be many of the most valuable relationships I have today.

During those 5 years we saw thousands of teenagers come through our youth ministry. I took Polaroids of every kid and used them as flashcards to help me remember names. I spent a ton of time with students, going to lunch at school every Tuesday, sitting on the bleachers at games, playing video games in their homes, having breakfast at Granny’s Pantry every Saturday morning, going on trips together…. so many great memories.

The picture above is from my son Cameron’s wedding a few months ago. It was held at that church, which he stayed at long after I moved away. The men in that photo represent 20 years of continuous youth ministry at New Life and were all involved with me during those 5 years I was there.

A few years ago, I was privileged to speak at a city wide youth rally back in town, a rally I first gave birth to years before. It was standing room only, full of teenagers and youth groups from all over the city… and I recognized at least 6 youth pastors who had been in my youth group as kids themselves.

In the moment, I never knew what kind of impact I was having on those teens, and I’ll bet they don’t remember a single sermon I preached. I see youth workers today and I wonder what kind of legacy they’re leaving. Are they just providing programming during the week? Or are they vested in the lives of their students? I heard Jeanie Mayo once say “The one who spends the most time with a teenager, wins.”

So many youth workers only stay in their role for a couple years before they get chewed up or burned out. It’s hard, I get it. And I know that my career field has topped out and is in decline. It’s sad really, because as much as the world has changed since I started in youth ministry with my ClipArt Books and my Overhead Projector; some things never change…

Teenagers need loving, caring adults in their world, who don’t leave. 

If you do that, you will find, unexpectedly, that they will give back to you much more than you ever thought possible. All of those teenagers are in their early 30s now… and I talk to many of them every month. And when we see each other, it’s so rewarding… they are now the age I was when I first met them in middle school. Most of them have families and are still in church and soon, middle schoolers of their own 🙂 Our conversations flow easily, as we process life and pain and faith. And it’s so very rewarding. I can’t imagine my life without them.

This pic was taken for a feature that Campus Life Magazine did on our youth ministry "The Student Body"... there's another one out there somewhere with me with bleach blonde hair haha! Oh the 90s.... :)

Summer time youth group on the Rathdrum Prairie. c. 1998



Discipleship – Yoda style

Now where is that parent that's been bad-mouthing you?

Obi-Wan Moder

I had a rare weekend. I was one of dozens of speakers at a conference in the Seattle area, and was able to be with both men who have influenced my youth ministry journey more than any other. Monty took me under his wing when I was a rookie in my first youth ministry tour. I was 20 and had just taken my first youth pastor job. He was the youth pastor at the big church across town and took me under his wing immediately. He not only helped me early on, but over the years has helped me survive some difficult youth ministry seasons. Monty helped me develop in my leadership capacity as a young leader, and challenges me still today as an example of a guy who NEVER mails it in. He still brings it every time. The other main mentor in my world is Bo. He has been coaching me through Lead222 over much of the last 10 yrs. He brings a football coaches mentality to our relationship. He lives out the verse in 2 Timothy 4:2 that tells us to “correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” When I am with Bo, I feel like he grabs me by the face mask and tells me the hard stuff I need to hear. And I listen.

Bo and Monty shared the stage for a few moments to answer questions about longevity in youth ministry during the conference. And as I sat in the audience, I couldn’t help but think of what a privilege to have, not one, but both of them in my life. What kind of leader would I be today had they not taken the time to invest in me? Would I even be a leader today? Maybe, but then again maybe not. I definitely would be much lesser of a leader without their influence in my life.

It’s for this reason that I continue to invest in young leaders. I hope that I can pay it forward to help other leaders survive the difficult seasons of life. And that they in turn will invest in others, thereby continuing the legacy of investment in others over the years. It’s the charge of one of my life verses: 2 Tim 2:2. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” This is discipleship. It’s exactly what Bo and Monty have done for me. Who do you have in your life that’s investing in you? Who are you investing in?

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