by Jenna Henderson
January 25, 2015
I realized some time ago that this January/February signified the 10-year anniversary of my getting placed as a Young Life leader at Tates Creek High School in Lexington Kentucky. I am big on anniversaries. I love celebrating things. The decision I made to be a YL leader has had incredible impact on the direction of my life since, so this anniversary carries a lot of feelings with it.
It has been on my heart since I realized this YL anniversary was approaching to share a few thoughts from the past decade of being a volunteer YL leader. Leading Young Life was a natural decision for me coming out of high school. My life was forever changed through this great ministry, so naturally I wanted to be able to impact others in the same way I was impacted.
I distinctly remember being frustrated that I couldn’t jump right into leading. At UK we had to do a semester of training before we could be placed at a high school. I was sorely mistaken that I was ready to go on arrival in Lexington. I had a lot to learn about myself and about loving others. Obviously one semester didn’t provide all of that for me, but thankfully one of the greatest truths I learned while leading is that God does far more in you than he does through you as a leader. It is impossible to give your life away and not grow.
As I look back over these 10 years, 8 in Lexington and 2 here in Batesville, I can say it has been a lot of joy, a lot of frustration, a lot of watching lives change, a lot of heartbreak, a lot of sacrifice. For those of you who are on the fence about your own decision to lead Young Life, I would say it is not an easy path to choose, but your life is going to be consumed by something, whether you realize it or not. I have an inkling that had I not chosen to lead my life would very much have been about me. I’m thankful for the way God has pulled me out of myself and shown me the joy that is living for something bigger. That is not to say that I don’t struggle with selfishness in my day-to-day life, but leading has provided a definite means of challenging that selfishness.
Jesus says in Matthew, “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it”. If I’ve learned anything this past decade, it’s that. The life I have found in giving mine away to high school students, I wouldn’t trade for 10 years of doing all my favorite things. In college there is a definite worldview of those years being the best years of your life to go crazy and make questionable decisions, because you’re young, why not? Looking back I know I would have felt a sense of loss had I spent my college years in that way. I know that because the opposite was so true. I got to see lives change dramatically in my college years. Yes, the time pouring in to the students often felt fruitless and like it wasn’t helping at all, but over time I got to see God working in hard hearts, breaking them down to a place He could take and make them alive and full.
When I think of the past 10 years, a handful of girls come to mind. It is not always easy being in the lives of high school girls. I don’t know if you know this, but being a high school girl is hard. It is hard on them, and hard on the people around them. But God does not see with the same eyes we do, and He certainly does not give up on us. I think of Jenna, Katie, Ellie, Marissa, and Meredith. These girls, among others, have been the absolute greatest blessings in my life. They went from freshman girls who probably thought I was weird hanging out at the high school to some of my best friends. These girls went on to lead YL in college, and a few of them are adults now with real jobs. It’s amazing to see the cycle of impact continuing through them.
The obvious blessings of a Young Life leader is the life change you get to see in the lives of students. The part they don’t tell you in training is the way the rest of your life is impacted. Through leading Young life, I made the most incredible friendships I could ever ask for. Girls that loved selflessly, that challenged me to grow in my faith, friends that have been there for me in all seasons of my life. These are still my greatest friendships to date. Because of Young Life I got to see early on what romantic relationships should look like. I got to see people older than me living those out. I got to meet my husband while we were both running hard after Jesus. If I had met someone while my focus was on myself, or even on the person I was dating, I know that my marriage today would be an incredible struggle. I got to see how blessed life is when I choose to be obedient to what Jesus asks of me.
There truly is life found when you give your life away. I am so thankful for the ministry of Young Life. I’m thankful for how I was shown Jesus as a freshman in high school in a way that changed the rest of my life, and I am thankful that still today, God is using it to refine me more and more every year, to look more like Him. I don’t know what the next 10 years looks like, but I know I serve a God that often calls me out of my comfort to greater things, and that makes me excited to go forward.