If you’ve ever heard me speak on youth ministry volunteers, you heard me tell stories about Marv. He was my favorite volunteer ever…and my oldest. Marv started working with teenagers when he was in his early 70’s. I got the blessing of performing Marv’s funeral last week. My friend Marv died.

I was taught as a young youth worker that I should never let people know that I have favorites. Well, I broke that rule many years ago when I met Marv. Marv was my favorite. Mostly because he was old, funny, a good youth worker and he loved me like a son. I wasn’t shy in my public praise of Marv. I let everyone know that I loved Marv’s heart and his age and I wanted more youth ministry volunteers like him.

Marv had a seasoning of life that is difficult to put into words. There was something about his age that made him so attractive. He began working with teenagers in his 70’s and kept at it until his early 80’s. He shattered the stereotype that good youth workers are young. Everyone loved Marv and at his funeral we all shared stories of how this old youth worker touched all these young lives. It was really amazing.

Marv built houses for a living so he understood hard work and people. I counted on Marv’s hard work and wisdom during the tough times in my ministry. He was always great to have around during conflicts because he told me truth and he wasn’t afraid of confrontation. He taught me how to be truthful with people and deal with issues without allowing it to become personal.

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Every time I talk about volunteers I tell youth workers that they need a Marv in their ministry. I tell them to go back to their church and find a senior citizen who has lived a long life with Jesus and isn’t afraid to tell the truth. That was Marv! Marv was also a lover. He loved me like his own (he had 3 daughters and no son) and bragged about me to everyone he met. He made my children cribs, rocking chairs, and toys. There wasn’t anything that Marv wouldn’t do for me. As a youth worker who was always giving, it was nice to have someone in the church body giving back to me. I know it’s selfish, but I really needed Marv in my life. I needed someone in the church body who really loved me—not just saying he loved me, but proving it with his actions. There’s something about old folks that are really good at that—what a gift! I may never have it again and I feel blessed to have had Marv in my life.

My favorite youth ministry story about Marv is how he would greet students as they entered the youth room. There were several ways for students to get in the room and yet they would line up to go through “Marv’s door”. Marv would greet every student with a hug and say, “You know Marv loves you don’t you?” The teenagers would nod, smile and squeeze Marv back. Then Marv would say, “You get in there and have fun.” Student after student Marv would do and say the same thing—it became his trademark. Last week, at his funeral, I said that I want to believe that God said to Marv, “You know I love you don’t you…now, get in there and have fun.”

To Marv: I can’t wait to see you again…thanks for impacting my life.

To my youth ministry friends: I challenge you to find a Marv for your life, for your students’ life and for the body of Christ. Our youth ministries need more people like Marv.

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