As we wrap-up our inaugural month of The Gathering Place with the theme of Sustainable Youth Ministry, I’m grateful for Kim Litwiller, Associate Conference Minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference, and worship leader for Kansas City 2015. If you have met Kim, you’ll know what I mean when I say, passion. Passion exudes from her pores. She may be little, but she is fierce–for Jesus. Her love for Him and her deep desire to walk with youth through the ups and downs of life, encouraging them to look ahead to catch a glimpse of the beauty found in a life with Jesus. May our hearts also burn with this passion as we journey together with our youth.
Regardless of the ministry context I find myself working in, youth ministry remains one of my greatest passions. I’m a youth minister at heart! Growing up as an un-churched kid within a household of not-yet-believers, I longed
to know Jesus and to be known by Him. I wondered if a place of belonging existed for me within the church. It was during my jr. high and high school years that I began to really wrestle with difficult questions as I searched to know and be known. Ministry was not something I set out planning to do, but in the midst of my wrestling ministry found me. A strong remembrance of the years I spent wrestling with questions and longing to know Jesus and to be known by Him as a youth, is what fuels the fire for youth ministry within me. I absolutely love ministering to youth in both a physical and spiritual sense. Spiritual youth of all ages exist inside as well as outside of the church today. This reality has allowed me to use my passion for youth ministry within a variety of ministry contexts. At my core exists an appreciation for real relationships, beautiful messes,
and breathtaking views.
Youth ministry is real! And it has to be, if relationships are to develop. One of the greatest lessons, I’ve learned while ministering to youth is the importance of being real — first with myself, and then others. Being real allows for trust to be established ushering in an invitation to get your hands dirty within the soil of another’s life.
Youth ministry is messy! There’s no greater joy than getting your hands dirty within the soil of a youth’s heart upon the invitation to walk with them as they wrestle with difficult questions in their search to know and be known.
Youth ministry is breathtaking! No more breathtaking view exists than to witness a youth being transformed by the love of God, and coming alive in Christ. As youth learn to walk in the freedom that’s found within forgiveness, one’s breath catches as a beautiful view comes into focus. I long for no youth to journey alone, as they find themselves wrestling with difficult questions of faith. I long for each youth to have someone beside them who’s not only willing to be real, and not afraid to get messy, but also eager to get their hands dirty all while craning their necks for a glimpse of the breathtaking view they know is coming.
It’s this longing that motivates me to continue ministering to youth in both the physical and spiritual sense. As a youth, who found herself often wrestling alone, I know the value of having someone come alongside who was willing to be real, and not afraid to get messy. I know the joy that comes from having someone rejoice in the breathtaking view that unfolds as God’s love begins to transform you and cheer you on as you come alive in Christ and learn to walk in the freedom found in forgiveness.
Kim Litwiller serves as Associate Conference Minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference. She is a seasoned youth sponsor and pastor, having worked in youth ministry for 12 years. She has a strong passion for helping individuals move from “mere believers in Jesus” to “active followers of Jesus.” She is married to Marc and is blessed with three amazing kids.