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This month’s letter is one that you may not want to read. It’s not my typical challenging, motivating or encouraging letter…instead, it’s a private look into the Fields’ family. Last month, youth ministry became very personal as it hit my own home.

My wife, Cathy, and I took our 14 year old daughter Torie away for a birthday weekend. We wanted a focused time where we would talk about the upcoming teenage years (actually, we meant to do this last year on her 13th birthday as a welcome to the “teen years”…better late than never I suppose). To help with our weekend we invited several friends to join us by writing Torie a letter.

*****

Dear friend,

Torie is turning 14 and we are taking her away for a little rite-of-passage weekend. We are planning a time to affirm her, commission her to the teenage years, paint a picture of what a woman of God looks like, and have part 2 of the sex talk that we had in 4th grade. We are really looking forward to it!

We’re writing friends who have been influential to Torie and/or the Fields’ family and asking them to write her a letter to…

1. Encourage her
2. Give her a spiritual challenge
3. Believe in her and her future
4. Other
5. All of the above.

We want to overwhelm her and create a weekend that she never forgets. Thanks for doing this…Doug/Cathy.

*****

Torie received over 50 letters and honestly, each one was a masterpiece. It took her all weekend to read us the letters. We laughed, cried, talked, and were all touched by God’s people by the end of this weekend.

The reason I want to share this with you is because I thought my youth ministry friends would enjoy knowing that the Fields’ family has been on the receiving end of the power of youth ministry. We have a wonderful, young youth worker named Alison influencing our family. For over 20 years we’ve been on the giving end and now that Torie is in our youth group we are on the receiving end of youth ministry.

When Torie read Alison’s letter there was more excitement and gleam in her eye than from all the other letters. It wasn’t that Alison had more wisdom or life experience than our other friends, but for year and a half she has held a consistent and special place in Torie’s life as her small group leader.

I’ve always believed youth ministry was important, but now I know it’s important…I know because my daughter’s life is being changed by a youth worker who loves Torie. Alison makes Torie smile, laugh, think, serve, greet others and do things she wouldn’t do without a little prompting by an influential friend. I know that my daughter will remember and appreciate Alison for the rest of her life. The postcards that Alison sends Torie will become treasures, when Alison calls our house Torie sprints through the house to grab the phone, when Alison invites Torie to run errands with her Torie views them as mini-retreats. Alison is a youth worker, Torie is a teenager, and I am a thankful dad who is grateful for another significant adult investing in my daughter’s life.

I have had some pretty strong feelings and opinions about youth ministry and what I’ve intuitively believed from a distance…I now experience firsthand as a father of a teenager. As you begin the year I want to take a minute and thank you on behalf of all parents for investing in the Torie Fields of this world.

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