Let’s talk 2018.
As of September 18, I have been the functional Director of Youth Ministries, and as of November 1, I have been the official Director of Youth Ministries. When I started here a year and a half ago, it was a part-time graduate residency — in my mind it would be an interesting stopover into youth ministry in Texas, in a downtown church, a stepping stone from interning to a leadership role.
It has obviously grown to be much more than that. I have loved being a part of this ministry, and have been honored and humbled by people that I respect so much trusting me with responsibility for leading it. But it has been hard. Brenda and I have worked hard (with the help of Erin, our choir director turned worship leader, our official intern Jackie, and our unofficial intern Jenny) to ensure that staffing changes have led to as little disturbance in the programming and work of the ministry as possible. Parents have stepped up, teenagers have stepped up, and I think all of us can look back at the last semester and be proud of what we’ve accomplished together (check out this blog for some well-earned bragging about 2017). 
But now we look forward. It will probably still be a couple more months without someone in the co-pilot’s seat, so we’ve recruited extra help and hired a new intern, and I am continually grateful for parents that have taken on projects way outside of a normal ask (Linda Kennedy for planning a Christmas Party, Kim Bird for helping with Revolution Weekend). There is a lot already headed our way this spring, with Revolution Weekend in two weeks (!!), confirmands walking over the first week of February, a revamped Sunday School structure, our Sex and Sexuality retreat in March, and then, of course, summer.
But my hope for this spring isn’t that it’s bigger and faster and fuller and louder. My hope is that it’s more comfortable. My hope is that the ministry finds a pace that’s sustainable. My hope is that it feels settled. We have changes planned (mainly the Sunday School structure and the confirmation inclusion), and my hope is that they make this ministry feel even more like a place of refuge, joy, and welcome. These big changes may seem like they are rocking the boat, but they’re really just moves to anticipate stress points proactively (not having 6th- and 12th-graders in the same room, helping older youth feel heard, easing 6th-grade transition, being aware of space constraints), to avoid greater discomfort and chaos down the line.
This ministry is not flash and bang, it is slow build, gradual construction of something that will outlast us. As I took over as director, parents and colleagues asked about changes I might make or new visions I might cast. I don’t mean to disappoint people, but what this ministry needs, what teenagers need, is not new, flashy, exciting, and short-lived. What they need is stable, comfortable, consistent, and safe; what they need is somewhere that feels like home.
I am always open to change and movement, but never for its own sake, and certainly not to create the illusion of productivity. Five-year visions are pointless if you redo them every 18 months. I am so thankful to be part of a ministry that has direction, momentum, and a solid foundation, and as we look to 2018, it is with cool heads, steady hands, and hearts full of joy for the gift of getting to be exactly where we are.
I have been lucky to inherit a ministry built on solid ground, and consistent in tone and direction even across the past several staffing changes. I will continue to build on what I’ve been given, making tweaks and adjustments as need be so that I can be part of building something that will outlast me and all the youth currently in the ministry. I will program and plan based on where we are now, with a steady eye on where we are headed, and work to build a ministry that welcomes, empowers, serves, and equips all youth it encounters to go out and be God’s people in the world.
Here’s to 2018, friends, and all it has in store!
 For those of you who are metrically minded, ministry numbers normally take a big hit at a loss of leadership (up to 20%) and we were prepared to lose a lot of the momentum that we had built. The average attendance at youth Sunday School was 53 for fall of 2016, and 52 for Fall of 2017, meaning functionally zero loss in attendance. There were even several weeks where total participation in weekly programming peaked over 100, a gold standard we’ve been aiming for.