Sunday, December 18, 2011


In the summer of 1992, a lady named Donna helped move along God's plan for my life.  At an event at my church, she asked what I wanted to do after high school/college.  I told her some thoughts I'd had (journalism-based) and said, "Oh, and I want to be a pastor's wife."  (I was dating a wonderful Christian guy at the time who was headed toward ministry... yes, I was just 16, but we had it all figured out, right?)  She stopped walking, turned, looked at me and said, "Why do you want to be the pastor's wife and not the pastor?"


That moment- in that very second- my heart leapt.  I knew she had spoken words that God directly wanted me to hear.  And that began my path into ministry.

When I arrived at UNC, I entered thinking I would be an Education major.  I knew by then I wanted to be involved in ministering to young people and figured I would have a back-up plan of public school teaching if the whole "church thing" fell through.  One of my mentors, Mary, advised me against having a Religious Studies major because- as she pointed out- I would get plenty of that in Divinity School.

Three majors later, I graduated with a degree in Religious Studies.  (Sorry, Mary... I was listening, I promise.)

The summer of 1996, I'd thought seriously about traveling with some IV people to Kazakhstan for a summer mission's trip.  Another of my mentors, Dan, was concerned that with my asthma as bad as it was, maybe going to Kazakhstan wasn't the best idea.  I ended up deciding to stay home that summer and intern with my Youth Minister, Jim.  Just before arriving home, Jim left that position... viola, I was the Summer Youth Minister.  Um, what?  How did that happen?  All of the sudden I was in charge of an entire youth group.

Know what happened?

I. Freakin'. Loved. It.  And... shockingly... I was good at it, too.

I was hooked.  I decided to try to get involved with the youth group of the church I attended at UNC- Carrboro Baptist Church.  One night in 1997 while I was recovering from a recent hospitalization, I answered a call from Jack, the pastor at CBC.  He wanted to ask if I'd serve as Carrboro's Summer Youth Minister, but they'd like me to start in January to help with the transition.

Are you kidding me?


I rolled into that office in January of 1998- months before the rest of my class began looking for jobs post-graduation... I'd walked right into my dream position.  And that whole "Summer" Youth Minister gig?  Four and a half years later I left that job when we moved to Winston-Salem.  My final business card (which had name changes as well as job changes- I added new titles and a new married name!) was "Becky Johnston, Minister to Students, Youth, and Children."  Anyone from birth to college was in my "area"... waaay too much for me to handle, but one of the most amazing rides of my life.  I sobbed on Match Day knowing I would soon be leaving that ministry... and sobbed even more as I drove away from HillSong (formerly Carrboro Baptist) on that day in June when we attended church there for the last time.

We began attending River Oaks in November of 2002 and by January 2003 knew we wanted to join.  We told our Small Group that first Sunday night that we loved River Oaks, but weren't sure we could call a church home that was in a town with so many colleges and no College Ministry.  They laughed.  Literally... laughed.  One of them said, "We've been praying for you!"  Apparently the pastor at River Oaks had recently asked another couple (John and Laurie) to begin a college ministry, but they wanted to wait until they had someone to partner with.  Um, we were those people.

Summer of 2003, we began the College Ministry at River Oaks.  Every season has looked differently... every "class" has been unique.  Every summer has been the best one yet... it just keeps getting better.

Which is why tonight at our Christmas party I sobbed like a baby when I told them we were stepping down from leading College Ministry.

Actually, that's only half true.  I sobbed and told them we were leaving... then... after an awkward pause... said, ".... because we hate you."  Then we laughed and I knew we would be okay.

We feel that the time is right for us to allow someone else the joy of loving these students.  But y'all... it hurts.  It hurts so much.  I have been so anxious about telling them for the last 3 weeks that I've had two stress-induced allergic reactions.  I have almost thrown up multiple times just thinking about it.  And tonight while we were doing the "Dirty Santa" game I wanted to run out of the room and call our Executive Pastor and say, "I didn't mean it!  We aren't stepping down!  We can't!!!  I just love them too much!!!"

God has clearly given us a heart for College Ministry.  Which is why stepping into the unknown feels so bizarre to us.  We know we are supposed to spend our time loving on people- and we know our immediate "job" is all about Foster Kids.  Beyond that, we don't know what's next.

I struggled when I moved to Winston with not having a title of "Minister".  I struggled with not having a business card that linked me to the people I loved.  Now I begin the struggle of stepping back from a ministry while still being in the place where that ministry happens.  I've been "doing" ministry for almost 14 years now.... so how do I cope with not "doing" it in the same way?  I can't handle the thought of not getting to lead College Ministry for the Annas, the Carolines, the Maddies, the Nates, the Daniels...

... then I take a minute to think about the Leslies, Heathers, Grahams, Alicias, Jeffs, Ryans, Chrises, Stephanies, Sherrills, Brents, Beccas, Danielles, Michelles, Lauras, Ashleys, Christines, Adralyns, Kellys, Michaels, Bens, Adams, Katies, Caitlins, Lukes, Devins, Andreas, Pauls, Kristens, Brads, Alexs, Stevens, Lizs, Alexises, Annas, Charleses, CourtneysRoberts, Merediths, Seths, Treys, Loreans, Kenans, Beckys, Amys, Daniels, Todds, Tabithas, Joshs, Carlys, Brittanys, DeeDes, Gavris, Noahs (yes, even Noah), Rachels, Lindseys, Kelseys, Davids, ... oh, y'all... I could go on all night.  (And, yes, I'm aware I've left some important people off... you get what I mean, right?  Lots of students... including you-the-one-I've-left-off-unintentionally....)

My heart hurts to think of letting go... but my heart is so full from God's blessings to me in the form of these students over the years.  It is so, so good.

Ministry will look different when we no longer have our home full of College Students on Sunday nights.  I don't know what it will be like... but I am so thankful for what it has looked like.  Catchphrase, forks, Barenaked Ladies tickets, Nertz, weddings, nose piercings, inappropriateness and all.

It is well with my soul.

1 comment:

expecteverything said...

and are you gonna be home on friday?
the heathers would like to see you :)