By John DeWitt
I started working as a children and youth pastor in June 2020. I accepted the position in January 2020, not knowing what was to come. When I took the job, I thought I knew a lot about ministering to young people. I interned at my large home church for two summers and a summer at a church in Toronto in 2019. I was tested in those summers, but with a generous safety net that caught me when I made mistakes.
In March 2020, the world was transformed. An entire generation of young people missed out on community in their schools and student ministries. We kept people home to keep them safe. It was an unfortunate—but necessary—sacrifice.
As I began working for my church that June, I quickly realized I had nothing figured out. Everything I knew about how to minister to young people no longer applied. I quickly realized I did not have the generous safety net I had before. I had to dig myself out of my mess when I made mistakes.
I was immature, prideful and had no idea how to do any of the things I thought I knew how to do. I dismissed good ideas and I implemented my bad ones. Fortunately, my church was—and still is—gracious. The pastor, wise women and men in the congregation gently directed me. They pointed me to Christ and shared strategies that worked.
Transformation did not happen overnight. Through my mistakes and people’s guidance, I understood that just because I had some experience in the field, I did not know their church better than they did.
I think most transformations are like this. Take becoming a Christian. We decide to follow Christ, but transformation only begins with that decision. It takes years of mistakes, mentorship, questions and doubts to mature.
When something begins transforming, it does not continuously grow without setbacks. If you looked at a line graph of a transformative process, it would start in one place at the bottom and rise and fall during time. Despite the falls, the general trend of the graph would be one of growth.
Mistakes are not desired, but they happen. We are human. We bob up and down with the current of life, but transformation is worth the skinned knees and twisted ankles we suffer when we fall.
I have been in my current ministry role for almost three years. It sounds cliché, but I have grown from my mistakes more than my successes. I have a long way to go, but I am closer to the person God is calling me to be because of my failures and the people who came alongside me to gently correct my course.
John DeWitt is the Children and Youth Pastor at Mount Hermon Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina. He is finishing his third year at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, N.C.
Thanks for sharing with honesty and vulnerability about mistakes and the things we do that contribute to them. You are blessed by a congregation that grows with you. My experiences were very similar early in ministry, including my pride and the graciousness of a loving congregation in Angier, NC. Thank Go for those teaching congregations!