This marks my 20th year as a youth pastor in Southern California. I began youth ministry as a 20-year-old when a college girl  invited me to come help lead as some guys began showing up at a girl’s Bible study she was leading. She was an amazing youth pastor with a great heart for teens who loved to see God’s presence move in their lives.

She was also pretty hot.

So we got married, and had four kids. She moved into the role of homeschool mom and for several years didn’t have the same time or energy for youth ministry. For years I pastored mainly on my own, but she would help with special events or speak from time to time.

Five months ago that all changed. I was burning out as full-time hIgh school and junior high pastor and had a full team of great leaders who were moving off to college. It was a God set-up. She stepped in as junior high pastor while I continued with high school ministry. At that time our two oldest had begun junior high, and we started trading off with the younger two depending on whose night or event it was. Not without challenges, it’s flowed together unbelievingly well.

Last night I saw her leadership team in full swing with a fun night. My wife, Erin, created a hilarious game called duct tape chair tag. You run around with a chair taped to your butt trying to tag each other and sit down once you’re tagged. It was pretty entertaining. I saw a certain smile in her that I remember from 20 years ago. She lit up with it.

Releasing leaders to lead, to come up with their own ideas, and be empowered can be dangerous, but it’s where they learn to fly. A couple of Asian members of her leadership team helped with a terrifying game of Fear Factor by bringing some of their cultural spice to the mix. Let’s just say there was lots of throwing up, fertilized baby chickens, and a new family that smiled uncomfortably as the parents picked up their first timer youth…..but it was awesome! There was an endless chain of laughter—real belly laughter—for at least 45 minutes. I went to my favorite In and Out burger afterwards, and kept having traumatizing flashbacks as I chewed. It may have ruined In and Out for me.

Somehow, though, there’s more here than just games. I saw leaders unite, young people building friends, and the love of my life lit with the same joy and nurture that’s always been a part of our home. As disturbing and simple as last night was, it rekindled perspective and changed lives…mine included.

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