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God always shows patience when working with a lump (clay or human form!) My story is no different. In the summer of 1999, I applied for a weekend ministry at a country church in a small town near Cincinnati, Ohio. That August I was hired at the tender age of 19 and that launched a ministry that would take me on a ride filled with bumps, bruises and friends. My time of 7 years would teach me a great deal in the realm of putting God first, being there for students and parents, and even how to hold my tongue when I do not see eye-to-eye with a friend.

Lessons taught by man can cut deep with a hard recovery; lessons taught by God can cut equally deep but His desire is to see growth. Though messy at times Felicity will always be remembered with passion and joy as I cut my teeth on a willing and patient board of godly men. And though I am still learning almost 10 years later, I am a little farther along in my leadership and my ministering to God’s people.

Upon arriving at Felicity Church of Christ (as it was then called), I went to work with what I deemed the most important… getting to know the students. I longed for their friendship and for their relationship with God to grow through my leading. God used a lot of great people to save souls, right wrongs, and love in spite of loss. However, looking back I struggle to accept my decisions of priority there, and a little wiser now I know God’s priorities are far better than my own. It is God’s will to put people first, but with the volume He was dealing with, it would have been more prudent for me to establish the infrastructure of coaches. That was something I longed to do but lacked the know-how to accomplish effectively.

Now, being almost 30 years old and recently taking an Associate Ministry in charge of youth and families at First Christian Church in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky, I have turned a corner in ministry. What are we doing if we are not multiplying ourselves? God may keep my family here until He comes back or we retire, but even if He never calls me elsewhere I have a responsibility to raise up coaches. We occupy our little corner of the world and take up oxygen for at the most one hundred years, and the children, students and adults we leave behind will continue our work long after we go before Jesus’ glorious face.

First Christian offered a position that I was not ready to accept late 2008, but after prayer and consideration by my wife and I we decided to take it. It was definitely “a God thing.” I love where God has me right now working with youth and adults to reach this generation and the generations to come. One of the first items on my agenda here was to make sure my relationship to God and my relationship to my family were placed at the top of my priority list. Without these priorities, we are leading without knowing the direction in which to go. Secondly, I knew that this mission could not be accomplished without vision (Proverbs 29:18), so I began to seek God’s vision for this youth ministry. We cast a vision centered around “Loving God and Loving people” through respect and acceptance, mentoring, being involved socially and the like.

Finally, God gathered around me a great group of coaches that he wanted me to pour teaching, training and time into. He longs for many hands to accomplish the mission at hand. “Many hands make light work” was a quote from a movie called ConAir speaking to the need for a unified team working toward a unified vision or goal. We are going to mutually train one another quarterly (I know for some of you this is hardly revelation, but for me it was a crucial page to flip.) through workshops, e-letters, and conferences.

My prayer for each of us working in the crucial role of youth ministries is please work with others. Work with others to train your job away so that others may be blessed through the ministry. Others carry more gifts than some ministers possess, so it is God’s desire for us to tap into those resources. I really feel we are cheating our kids if we go about our job with no regard to the future. Our purpose is to engage those “could-be” coaches standing in the corner on Worship weekends, to engage those potential student changers arriving late and leaving early so they do not have to speak to another human being.

The life of Jesus points to a life of multiplication. Who challenged the 3000 repentant ones on Pentecost morning? A man changed by the cross-carrying Christ. Who looked into the eyes of a crippled beggar and called out healing? Two who had “been with Jesus.” These men and the other ten were changed forever because of what they saw and what they experienced. Are we passing the message on? Are we making sure the next generation will be taken care of?

Patience is in God’s very nature and He is willing to wait. However, time is of the essence as more and more are dying without the good news of Jesus. Please, like Paul… raise a Timothy. Like Elijah pass the mission on to Elisha. Put God first, cast vision that can be followed, and raise coaches to help in the ministry.

Love God, Love People.

Much love and respect for all you do,

Eric Barton

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