Andy Leaves Woody, and it Makes Me Cry Every Time

Fuller Youth Institute

Today's Back to School guest post is from Jason Chenoweth, Youth Pastor at Shelbyville Community Church in Shelbyville, IN and part of our 2012 Sticky Faith Cohort

Okay, I admit it.  When I watch Toy Story 3 I cry.  Don't judge me! 

I have plenty of excuses; I'm a dad of two girls, one of them is moving through 8th grade and the other 5th.  I'm a storyteller, and a good story will always make me cry.  I got a piece of popcorn stuck in my eye.  Take your pick, the excuse line is long.  But the reality is, the scene where Andy has to choose to leave his favorite toys in the hands of a little girl and walk away hits my heart as a long-time youth pastor. 

You see, it’s mid-August, and that means it’s time for one of my least favorite rituals as a pastor to students.  

In the next two weeks, most of our recent high school graduates are going to be leaving for college.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am SO excited for them.  I love college, the growth and learning, the moving to a life that is independent.  I do worry about many of them, but even in that, I know that God is good and strong, and we have tried to stand by their parents over the last seven years and shown them how to follow Jesus.  That isn’t necessarily why this two-week window is so hard.  

I just miss them.  

I’ve been through this season of good-byes over 20 times now, but it never gets any easier.  At all.  I have faith, I know a new school year is starting full of stories and excitement and opportunities to pour into students and families lives.  I LOVE that!  Yet, I still am sad to see this class go on.

Last week, one of our middle school leaders was the first to say goodbye for college. My long-time friend and co-worker in the ministry this summer is heading back to his junior year of college next week. With those two goodbyes, I begin the process again.

It’s just one of the little, often unseen wounds that we carry as youth pastors. We definitely don’t have conferences on it, or seminary classes about it.  It’s just one of the small prices of caring, of loving kids, of pouring ourselves into them and hoping in the face of sometimes incredible odds that they will make it.  Then they do, and they have to leave, to move on to the next phase Jesus has for them.

So to all of my fellow youth pastors out there, know that as you cry a little, or may be a little melancholy over the next two weeks, it’s okay.  You’re not alone by any stretch.  You’ve done your job well; you have been the hands, feet, words, and heart of Jesus. Thank you for loving students until it hurts.

I'll even agree to be Buzz, and you can be Woody.  We'll let Kara be Rex.

Published Aug 24, 2012
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