Tuesday, January 17, 2012


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My very first youth pastor leadership role back in 197... a long time ago, found me as a idealistic college student overseeing a middle school ministry. Of course I had an incredible team of adults standing beside me, and my mentor and youth ministry hero shepherding me.

Probably one of the most unique things about this group was that among the 50+ students that identified themselves with us on a regular basis, there were three sets of identical twins. Perhaps this was a statistical anomaly to be celebrated, but I still found myself often disoriented as I stood in front of the group and saw identical faces scattered throughout the crowd.

Two sets were boys, one set was girls. One set of boys did all they could to separate themselves from each other, both in proximity and in dress, hair style, etc. This was a big help to me.

The other set of boys and the girls dressed alike, acted alike, sat together, and always approached me to talk as a pair. (Thanks a lot!)

It was easy for all around me to see that: 1) I was an insecure rookie youth pastor, 2) I was seeking to impress the other adults who worked with me, and 3) I didn't have a clue to what I was doing. Add to that three sets of identical twins comprising over 10% of the group and I was in way over my head.

The girls even went so far as to contribute to my confusion by swapping name tags, adopting the other's nuances, and conspiring with some of the students to use the identical twin card to constantly keep me off-balance.

A lot of creativity, quick wit to cover mistakes, and "weaseling" went on during those first few years of ministry.

But I did take away some powerful lessons from that experience:
  • No matter how hard people try to be like others, everyone is still unique, and they deserve to be treated that way. Even the twins who tried to be like their counterpart were very different. Celebrate the differences in people.
  • Everyone has something about them that they may not be happy about. Sometimes the twins confided that they didn't like the fact that there was someone who looked just like them. Be sensitive to hurtful things that we may perceive as accepted.
  • We shouldn't take ourselves too seriously. I was trying very hard to make a good impression on my adult leadership team, to make sure the all of students liked me, and to make my mentor proud of me. Be yourself, and allow others to accept you the way you truly are.
I am grateful for the confidence that my mentor placed in me to turn me lose in that role. I am grateful for the adults who allowed me to make mistakes without judgement. I am grateful for the students who responded to my leadership, some of whom are still friends after 30+ years.

Question: What is a unique situation that you have you been placed in that became a powerful learning tool for you? Share your thoughts below in comments.

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