I had the privilege of attending the Gathering in Tauranga as part of the leadership team from our church late last year. Thumbing through the report, I recognized the smiling face of my old youth group leader, Gary Grut. I bet he doesn’t remember me – it was over 10 years ago that I left youth group!
As people flooded through the doors on Friday morning I saw Gary. I swallowed down a bit of nervousness and approached him. “Hi, Gary,” I started, meaning to introduce myself. It turns out there was no need – I was delighted to find that I was significant enough in this youth leaders eyes to be remembered.
“NIKKI!!!!” Gary yelled out, engulfing me in a welcoming hug with a huge grin. I relaxed, and we shared some great memories together of snow camps, water weekends and record breaking nights.
“It takes a village to raise a child” was the saying that stood out to me as I chatted to my Children and Family Ministries co-leaders throughout the conference. The concept of partnering together with others and seeing Gary again had given me a good opportunity to reflect on the village that raised me.
From the age of 2 until 22 I was raised in the incredible family of Glen Eden Baptist Church. At 12 years old, I was too old for the children’s programme and too young to enjoy the church service, so I started helping out in the creche where my baby sister was.
Looking back, I am so grateful for the adults who saw my giftings and encouraged me to develop them further. I was challenged to get involved in the team and slowly given more responsibilities.
By 16 I was attending the team meetings as leader of the 3- to 4-year-old group. This experience has helped shape my own leadership strategies. I believe in working closely with the youth ministry, giving opportunities to serve when I find a seed of passion.
Unfortunately, there were just not many youth my age in the church. God had it all under control though – I had an invitation from a school friend to come along to her youth group down the road, Titirangi Baptist. Gary and his team welcomed me in with open arms, and didn’t seem to mind that I was involved in another church on a Sunday morning.
GEBC and TBC worked on a few combined events throughout the year, and I always remember the warm feeling as I watched my two families work together. This taught me so much about the value of churches working in partnership with each other, and that we must work as a team to see our children grow in Christ.
As I learn about “Thinking Orange” and working alongside families, I thank my Dad for recognizing the need to give me the stability of my youth group family, and encouraging me to serve in my home church wholeheartedly, even after we moved half an hour away from both these churches.
I had some pretty major stuff going on through my early teenage years at home, and without the feeling of belonging and inclusion that came from both these “villages,” I am not sure that I would be where I am today – children’s ministry leader at Village Baptist Church in Havelock North.
Over the Gathering weekend I asked myself a few things:
What if GEBC had decided I was too young for serving in ministry or was a bit of a write-off, as I didn’t attend their youth group?
What if TBC had decided not to embrace me fully because I was from another church family?
What if my family had gotten sick of running me between two groups for all those years?
I encourage churches to work in partnership with each other. Children’s leaders, youth leaders and pastors should be talking together often, working as a team to ensure our children are not slipping through the gaps. Families and churches should be working alongside each other and keep their eyes fixed on a common goal – seeing their children grow in Christ. It takes a village to raise a child – and sometimes it takes two!
– Nikki Trowbridge