You Packed My Parachute
Do you have days when you question the call of God on your life to do youth ministry? Perhaps you are wondering about your purpose and the worth of what you are doing.
Take heart! We have all had days like that, and it would be tragic if you listened to the lies of the heart often prompted by Satan. As a “lifer” in youth ministry, I have seen God’s faithfulness and promise to those of us doing a mission that no one else can do!
When the Apostle Paul struggled with such thoughts, he would clarify what he was doing. He saw himself and all of us in ministry as “shining stars holding out the word of life in the middle of a crooked and perverse generation,” and that he could boast that he “did not run or labor in vain!” (Philippians 2:15-17).
Paul also wrote: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
As a veteran of 42 years in youth ministry, I want to cheer you on to not lose heart. You need to stay long enough to see the fruit.
So what’s that have to do with packing a parachute? The other day, 23-year-old Natalie, who had been one of the students in my ministry, insisted that we go out for coffee (she didn’t like Mountain Dew, my favorite drink). She was about to spend the next two years teaching English to students in a Christian high school in Venezuela. For her, it was a meeting she had wanted to have for a long time.
I listened with my whole heart. She welled up with tears as she spoke (and that’s not like her…she’s strong and not usually prone to tears). This caused tears to roll down my face as she said, “Pastor Keith, whenever I write my resume or give my story, you are in it. You packed my parachute.”
She had been at a Young Life staff retreat (where she had served as a leader for the past four years), and the speaker asked them whose parachute they had packed? As she pondered that question for herself, she looked back on who had helped her get ready to leap into ministry.
Jesus spoke to me through this young woman, whom I watched grow. I had hoped that I had helped, and now it was confirmed that my labor was not in vain. It turns out that while in junior high, she was with a group of us in Appalachia as we served the children there. God used a message I gave there to help her decide to make Jesus the Lord of her life!
She took part in all that we had to offer in training and equipping students through the rest of junior high, but had moved with her family to Germany during her high school years. I was worried for her spiritual health during those days. Yet, here she was sitting in front of me, heading out to do youth ministry for Jesus.
The image of a parachute is profound to me since our youngest son was a skydiver for the Air Force Academy. The first year of his experience there was someone else who was a professional who would pack his chute to keep him from “falling away” or being killed. Sounds like your job and mine, doesn’t it?
Natalie wanted me to know that now she was ready to help pack other young peoples’ parachutes as she introduces them to Christ.
Honestly, God has given me many stories like that to remind me that what you and I do is critical to the kingdom. Take some time to look at the fruit of your ministry with students. Thank Jesus and then realize the profound truth of what you are doing for the cause of Christ.
If you have time, I'd love to hear the stories of the students whose parachutes you packed!