BY OWEN HUGHES, Associate Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church
Who Are You Owin’?
“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” - Paul
If you have been around Conal Carr for any length of time you will know that Conal has a love and passion for youth ministry. He was the youth “pastor” (unpaid) at Oakwood for many, many years, and was previously involved with youth ministry in his former churches. His favorite verse to quote is 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (see above) as he talks about his “philosophy” of youth ministry. The verse basically says that ministry to others is more than just words, it is actions, it is sharing life, it is genuine care for others.
Earlier this month I went back to Florida to do a wedding. I got to see a lot of my old friends from my time there. One of these friends who had the biggest impact on me was Lynne Mills. Lynne is about 10 years older than Amber, my wife, and me, so when we first met her she was in the stage of life that we are now. She and George have four children who were involved in the community and in the church. Lynne has a heart for the lost and as her kids got older, her mission was to impact her children’s friends and their families with the Gospel. The way she did that was to become a coach for a local soccer club team, where she gained a reputation for loving her team and winning a lot of games. Her involvement with the community and her love for these girls lead to something more important for Lynne: friendships. Lynne’s mission was never to be one of the best club coaches in the state of Florida (which she was), it was to impact kids with the Gospel, for Jesus.
Lynne started several youth outreach initiatives at the church where our family attended and where I later worked. She started a successful soccer camp, VBS, and youth retreat, but her real impact was the way she invested in kids, specifically girls, in a very intentional way. She was always discipling young women, challenging them to think about their choices, and what it looked like to live in the light of Jesus. What drove Lynne’s ministry was this motto, “Kids just want to be loved and cared about.”
Lynne and I (along with Robin Ferguson, another lady in our church that was instrumental in the youth ministry…are you seeing a pattern?), worked together for about four years. We ran the youth group, the summer programs, and the discipleship program for the church and we had a blast. There were many tears, several arguments, and a ton of laughter. Lynne’s motto became ingrained in the ministry and the fruit is that many of those kids are now in their mid-twenties, and they love Jesus, the church, and look for ways to serve the community.
“Kids just want to be loved and cared about.” Has always stuck with me as I consider my ministry, the way I interact with my neighbors, and how I try to parent my own children. There are many times I have been tempted (and have fallen into temptation) to talk and talk and talk about what others should do and what things “could be like,” and what the Bible tells us to do, but sadly I don’t DO anything. Not that words aren’t important, and certainly, we are to preach the word, speak the Gospel, and tell others of Jesus, and I take that very seriously, but Lynne taught me that for a kid to listen to me, they needed to know that I love them and care about them, first. Lynne showed me this by always having her home, wallet, time, and heart opened to those kids.
I need to say though, that Lynne got burned many times. When you put yourself out there, when you are “desirous” for others, then you will get burned. Loving people is wildly inefficient, hurtful, and often does not yield a good return on your investment. When Lynne, Amber, and I met again this past month we talked about these things, and about how ministry can become an identity. When our identity is tied to anything other than Jesus, we will get burned and burned out. We spent time talking about how Jesus shows us that He loves us and cares about us. We also talked about how Jesus is desirous for us and doesn’t just say He loves us, but shows us His love by giving His life for us so we can live with Him forever.
Even in that conversation I was once again reminded of Lynne’s passion to see others encouraged and grow in their faith in Christ. Lynne spent time encouraging us, because Lynne knows “Owen just wants to be loved and cared about.”
I am definitely ownin’ Lynne Mills for teaching me through her kindness, generosity, and love what it looks like to be “desirous for others” to the point that you will share your life with them.
So, who are you ownin’?