Ronald Long

Last month I graduated my sixth group of seniors from the same church. And man I’m a mixed bag of emotions.

Because these seniors are the first who had me since they were seventh-graders.

Yup, the guys and girls who walk across the stage have known no other youth pastor at this church. I’ve been here that long.

1. I’m pretty sad.
For six years these students have been a constant. They are the ones who embraced the student ministry here and ran with it. They are the ones I’ve seen grow from tiny middle school students to most of them being taller than I am now.

And you better believe I’m going to miss them.

2. I’m scared to death.
Sending out seniors up to this point has been somewhat easy.  I’ve wondered if what they’ve learned while in the youth group will stick. I’ve hoped they will continue to grow and mature in their faith. But there’s always been that thought in the back of my head: “Well, I only had them for a year…two years…three years.”

Now these students have had me all six years in the student ministry. I pray that what they have learned will stick. I’m scared to death for some it won’t.

3. I’m so excited.
It’s kind of like watching my daughter take her first steps. I get to see these “babies” go out into the real world and take it on. They are all grown up. Even though they still have so much to learn (like I did when I graduated high school), they are getting out into real life.

They are about to take their faith to the next level. I can’t wait to watch how they tackle life!

4. I’m at peace.
I remember high school me. I was pretty dumb. I remember college me. I was only slightly less dumb. I had a youth minister who cared deeply for my spiritual growth in high school. When I got to college I messed up a lot. I got it right some of time. I grew in my faith because of my struggles and my successes.

I’ve prayed over these students more times than I can remember. We’ve developed a ministry here that equips students for life in “the real world.” I know they will make mistakes. I pray that they will grow and learn from them.

5. I can’t wait.
I cannot believe the kids who were SIX when I got here will be moving up into the youth group. I’m so pumped for the next year I can barely keep it in!

New goal: graduate a second round of seventh graders next year!

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