From the Pastor

High school graduation is right around the corner, and we sure do have a great group of students to unleash!

In youth ministry, we often ask the question: What does a student need in his/her backpack as they walk across the graduation stage? Lots of things, of course. Confidence, academic acumen, a sense of purpose/drive, community, selflessness, empathy, respect for others/self, a moral compass, a defined set of values, among many other things.

What is it that a church relationship adds to their backpacks? Well let’s ask some of our previous grads:

Rebecca Agner. St. John’s helped me to realize the value of community and consistency. It gave stability to a hectic schedule.

Andrew Poe. St. John’s instilled in me the knowledge that faithful community can be found wherever I go. I just have to look for it.

Matt Woolly. St. John’s gave me skills of leadership and compassion. It also taught me the value of maintaining relationships, to take advantage of everything, and that you can never be “too cool.”

No doubt we’ve watched a lot of outstanding St. John’s grads walk across the stage. I’m biased, of course, but I think we have the best students anywhere around, thanks in large part to great parents, teachers, mentors, and opportunities.

It’s also thanks to a church that takes youth ministry seriously.

So, what do we hope our grads have in their backpacks?  Here are a few essentials:

Love. A deep love of God, others, and the world

A set of  lenses — lenses that sees the world as a place of abundance, not scarcity

Scripture. An understanding of scripture that’s rooted in faithful relationships

Values. Moral values that are rooted in God’s values of peace, love, mercy, justice, joy, and forgiveness

Purpose. A sense of purpose that extends beyond self

Mentors. We want each of our grads to have adult mentors at church who know them in a deeply personal way.

Belonging. We want our youth to understand what faithful, healthy community looks like, and to be determined to build that kind of community wherever they go.

Cross. We want every grad to know that Jesus, through the cross, frees us from sin and shame so that we might live “a life that really is life” (1 Timothy 6:19).

Thanks for helping stuff the backpacks of our students. In these next few weeks/months, we’ll be bidding them farewell, sending them off on the next leg of their journeys. It’s always a teary time, I’ll admit. But it’s also a joyful time, because I’m so thankful that we’re unleashing another set of students who are armed with the power of God’s love and wrapped in the beauty of faithful community.

On behalf of all of us at St. John’s: Congratulations, grads!

+Pastor Rhodes


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