I’ve gotten so many emails today from my friends and church family from Harrison Hills Baptist Church in Lanesville, IN…I just had to write about them. In fact, not only have I received emails, but I also was visited by one of the families (the McLendons) as they were on their way back to Indiana tonight from Mobile.
I learned some very valuable lessons while at HHBC for my first 4 years of full-time youth pastoring. First, I learned to appreciate the church as a family of Christ. HHBC is such a close fellowship, that we would act just like a family in the way that we would love each other, worship Jesus together, do ministry side by side, disagree, fight at times, and then just eat together and make up! I didn’t just leave a church in Indiana, but I left a very dear family to me. Secondly, I learned how to work on a staff. In a church of just over 100 people, we had 5 pastors on staff for a time. In fact, 2 of the pastors were studying for their PhD and 3 were studying for their Masters of Divinity at that time. I learned how to share responsibility, how to get along with the other pastors, how to pray together, how to be in submission, and how to challenge those who are older and uglier than you are!
Third, I learned how to “do” student ministry. I was blessed to be in that church who gave me full reign and trust there in the student ministry. There is where I learned to teach Systematic Theology (Framework) and Biblical Theology (Storyline). I was blessed to have students who desired to learn about Christ, worship Him, and grow to become more like Him. Finally, at HHBC I learned that ministry truly was what God has called me to do. Wanting to do it is one thing, but I thank God that He put me in a church to where the members would be patient with me as I cut my teeth as a young pastor. I made so many mistakes, I made some people mad, but I made incredible friends and I learned so much.
Now that my pastoring days have passed at Harrison Hills Baptist Church, I feel like that my ministry is “down hill from here.” I sure don’t know it all and I definitely haven’t experienced it all, but I do have my first ministry experience under my feet. They allowed me to stay there for 4 years, they allowed me to shepherd their teenagers, they allowed me to preach in their pulpit, they allowed me to baptize their children, they allowed me to serve them the Lord’s Supper, they invited me into their homes, they asked me to visit them in the hospital, they rebuked me at times, encouraged me other times, taught me, and learned from me. I am so thankful for Harrison Hills Baptist Church. If only every youth pastor could cut their teeth on such an experience!