My Path to Youth Ministry

So here I am, 25 years old, a Youth Director at a medium sized United Methodist church.  Looking back on my life, I never thought I would have ended up here.  Nothing from my first 17 years of life would have made me think this is what I would be doing.  In fact, I ran into a high school friend of mine just a year ago and told her what I do for a living.  Her reaction? Laughter, and lots of it.  She quickly apologized, but said she just never pictured me as a “pastor type”.  That’s how radically God changed my path once I gave myself to Him.

So how did I get here?  What spurred this sudden shift in career path?

Growing up, I had one ambition for my career, to be a Pediatric Urologist.  I had personal struggles in this area as a young child and wanted to be able to help others with it.  I was focused intensely on it. In high school they had medical courses where we would learn terminology and be able to observe real doctors in different fields.  I took both levels of it that were offered and took it in like a child who is Cuckoo for Coco Puffs.  I just couldn’t get enough.  I got a 106 in Chemistry, so I thought to myself, “I’ll be a Chemistry major while I’m pre-med, it’ll be easy!”

Oh how wrong I was.

I went to college at Southwestern University, which has an excellent Science department.  I started my fall semester off right, taking Chemistry 101, figuring I would just breeze through it.

*Smack*

You hear that?  That was God’s 2×4.  I took the first exam and earned a 69.  Now, Chem 101 is a “weed out” class.  That means it’s ridiculously hard with the sole purpose of “weeding out” the ones who don’t really want to do it.  So, I thought to myself, “I’ll just try harder and study more and I’ll be fine!”

*Crush*

OK, now that sound can’t be good…yep, it’s what I thought…that’s God’s wrecking ball.  On the second exam, I earned a 36.  You read that right, it’s not a typo, a 36.  You see, I had become a Christian my senior year of high school and started asking God to direct my path and show me His will (be careful what you ask for), and He was certainly glad to do so.  I wandered for a while before my dad and I had a rather frank conversation which consisted of him walking into my room and saying, “You’re going to major in Business or I’m not going to pay for it.”  Business major it is!  This actually serves me very well in my job as there are a lot of administrative functions that my Business degree really prepped me for.

But I had a problem, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do for a living.  I had been volunteering with the Youth Group in the church I attended and was leading worship, teaching, and organizing retreats.  Finally, my Junior year of college, God peeled back the veil a little and showed me I was called to go into Youth Ministry.  I found an internship at a large church in Round Rock and through that year really confirmed that God had called me to the ministry.

Then I graduated.

I spent 9 months looking for a position all across the country, even making it to the interview phase at a few.  But, like a creek in the Texas summer, they all dried up.  I had it firm in my mind that I was supposed to be in full-time paid ministry.  It’s what I felt God had called me to.  Now, I bet you’re thinking, “But wait, aren’t you in full-time paid ministry now?”  Yes, I am, but don’t get ahead of me.  About month 8 I gave up.  And by that, I mean I gave up on my preconception of what I was called to.  I knew I was called to Youth Ministry, but maybe that meant part-time, or volunteer.  So, I began looking for a regular 9-5 job with my Business degree, had some interviews, and even had a job offer.  But something still didn’t feel quite right, so I kept looking.

Then one day, I see a posting for the church I’m at now.  In the Classifieds.  Not on any of the church posting sites, not anywhere I would have expected to see it.  I apply, and within 2 weeks am hired unanimously by the SPPRC (think HR for the church).  Now, anyone who has been on a church committee knows, unanimity is rare, like seeing the Aurora Borealis at the Equator.  I had been asking for a clear sign if I was called to this church, and God gave it to me.

See, what happened just a couple months prior is, I gave it to God.  I had been trying to make it happen.  I was like Jacob, struggling to fulfill the promise of God instead of letting Him do His job.  Once I gave up and put it in His hand and said, “Your will be done, whatever that looks like!,” He smiled and said, “Finally!”  I ended up where He wanted me, doing what I felt called to do, how I felt called to do it.  The difference is, He gets the Glory (where it rightly belongs), instead of me making it happen.

About Chris Reyes

Chris served St John's as the Director of Youth Ministries from 2009 until 2014. He now serves with another UMC congregation.
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