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.

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