Passing On a Pastoral Heart to Students

Last week my daughter Claudia ended up in the hospital because of some further illness triggered by a bout with the flu. Mom went with her to the Emergency Room, and when she was admitted to the hospital, I was the one who went along and enjoyed sleeping on the fabulously comfortable pull-out sofa. Fortunately, the doctors were able to identify the issues and she was only in the hospital for two days before being released, and she is on the mend.

As a youth pastor, I am usually the one going to visit people in the hospital. It’s not often that our family is on the receiving end of hospital visitations (for which I thank the Lord!). But this time we were. I was blessed as I witnessed my daughter receive texts and calls of concern and prayer. And, of course, when one is in the hospital, it’s always nice to have people drop by for a visit. Several of Claudia’s friends and folks from the church did so, and all were meaningful. As a youth pastor, a few specific ones that blessed me were several of our youth ministry adult volunteers. It was such a blessing to see my team caring for my own daughter in her time of need. Pastoral ministry at its finest.

One of the visits, in particular, stood out to me. Jen is one of our great volunteers. During Claudia’s stay in the hospital, Jen arranged to stop by for a surprise visit. It was about 4pm when I was awakened from my nap on that fabulously comfortable pull-out sofa by the sound of faint giggles. I opened my eyes to see Jen, Rachel (another one of our volunteers), and Liz and Faith, two of our students laughing at us as we had fallen asleep. I then used the remote control to make Claudia’s bed go up and down until she awoke as well, and we all had a good laugh. As they sat and visited, I took note of something awesome that was happening.

Hospital visits afford great opportunities for the exercise of pastoral care. In my philosophy of ministry, I seek to encourage and empower our entire team of leaders to care for students pastorally (Ephesians 4:11-12). Here were Jen and Rachel living out our calling as youth workers to care for students. But something else was going on here. Not only had they come to pastor Claudia themselves, they had brought along two students with them. Liz and Faith had come as friends of Claudia, to be sure. But they had come at the invitation and along with two of their youth leaders. Beyond simply pastoring Claudia, they were also providing hands-on mentoring to Liz and Faith.

Experiences are far more impactful than words. Jen and Rachel didn’t call up Liz and Faith and say, “Come on, let me mentor you in the art of hospital visitation.” They simply lived out my definition of a great youth worker: Live your life for Jesus, and take a student along for the ride. By inviting students along as they pastored, they were effectively passing on a pastor’s heart to students. I was blessed and very proud of them.

It’s not always possible, but my challenge to you today is to think one step beyond just caring for and supporting students yourself; whether it’s visiting them in the hospital or attending their games or events. Pick up the phone and invite a student or two to come along as well. It’s the best way to pass along the heart of the gospel to love God and love others to students.

1 Day … 2 Dates

Yesterday I took the day off so Adriana and I spend some time together. We went on two dates. First we went for lunch in Port Jefferson at The Steam Room where we enjoyed a delicious clam bake over a scenic view of the Long Island Sound. Then this evening we went to Huntington and participated in our second Paint Nite. It was a wonderful day with my best friend!

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A Prayer For Small Groups

Tonight is small groups night for our students, and it got me thinking about this little poem I wrote a few years ago, which is my prayer for small groups.

Father, today as our small group meets
I pray that each person will feel your heartbeat
May they know they are special, they’re cared for, they’re loved
Your kingdom come, on earth as above

Our time together, though not long only short
May it seed true communion with You in our hearts
Help us see Your image inside of each other
Teach us what it means to truly love one another

Away from the big, the loud, the flash
Just a few of us here to share and to laugh
To discuss Your Word, to share and go deeper
To talk real life and be our brother’s keeper

Praying for one another as we journey through life
May we encourage each other to reflect Your light
Let us always be inclusive, welcoming, warm
A safe place for all in the midst of life’s storms

Lord we all come from a myriad of places
Give us wisdom and kindness and grace and patience
Thank you for unity in the midst of diversity
Make us one in Christ, true Christian community

Bless those abundantly who have opened their home
Upon their house, God we pray Your Shalom
May it be filled with laughter, with joy, and with vision
In return for their giving, God we pray Your provision

And let us, O Lord, never ever forget
That there’s someone else out there who has yet to connect
Your eyes and your mouth to see and invite
That not one, O Lord, would be alone in the fight

It’s a mystery to me why they seem to be Your preference
But amazingly in the end small groups make a great big difference
Life on life, Jesus you modeled it back then
So I’ll do the same, in Jesus name, Amen.

– Kevin Mahaffy, Jr.

Bonhoeffer

Dietrich BonhoefferLast night I finished reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I have read Bonhoeffer’s books, but it was really insightful reading about his life from which those books were born. While I in no way would ever compare myself to the things he faced, I couldn’t help but feel an affinity with Bonhoeffer on many levels. His desire to live as a man of principle and according to the Word of God; His determination to think deeply and theologically; his battles with depression and yet seeking to remain positive, optimistic, and hopeful; his experiences in seeking to follow the Lord upstream against the tide of popularity, trusting all results completely to the Lord; and perhaps most surprisingly, his work with youth and children. I never realized that Bonhoeffer was in fact a youth worker. I was pleasantly surprised to see this side of him! I was so blessed to see his relational approach to ministry. He taught Sunday school. He had young people over to his house for discussions for his Thursday Circle. He took time to talk to them about their real-life issues. He took them on retreats and helped them learn how to spend time with God, in the Word, in contemplation, and enjoying nature together. I loved learning this about him, because they are things that I am passionate about in my own youth work. I am a teacher by gifting, and I love sharing God’s Word and helping them learning through discussion. I also love shared experiences which allow us to think deeply about God. Small groups, retreats, trips. Bonhoeffer was my kind of youth worker. Biblical. Practical. Relational.

When I finished reading the book. I hit my book shelf to find my next book to read. Coincidentally, I found that I recently grabbed a book by Andrew Root during my book shopping at the National Youth Worker Convention entitled Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker, which I am about to read. I am excited to see how he develops this idea of Bonhoeffer’s work with students.

Daddy-Daughter Date Brooklyn Nets vs. Golden State Warriors

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Last night Natalia and I had the fun of going to the Brooklyn Nets vs. Golden State Warriors game on a Daddy-Daughter Date. We were excited to see “the Splash Brothers” Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, arguably the best offensive back court in the NBA today. Unfortunately Thompson had an off night and only scored 7, and Steph only had 8 points going into the 4th quarter due to foul trouble. But, they did make it exciting as Curry scored 18 in the 4th and the game came down to the wire. Tied at 108 Jarrett Jack hit a tough contested jumper with 1.1 seconds on the clock to go ahead. Curry got the ball with a chance, but Brooklyn defended well and he couldn’t get the shot off on time, and Brooklyn won. It was a great game, and more importantly a really great shared experience with my girl!