God continues to work through our “messes”

By Mary Carol Anderson
Minister of Youth and Recreation
First Baptist Church, Greenville

I have heard it described as an “unprecedented ministry season.” While I agree with this sentiment, it feels far more significant and impactful than what “unprecedented” can pack into its meaning. But, it helps to explain just how much youth ministry has changed since March.

As a youth minister who strives to stay relevant by riding the waves of technology, staying connected to a network of youth ministers, and most importantly by engaging in the lives of youth, it is a challenge to remain relevant in the lives of our teenagers amid a constantly evolving virus that seems to increasingly affect our lives as it continues to spread.

I began traveling on youth retreats when I was 12 years old. My 6th-grade summer introduced me to what I would later realize to be my life calling in ministry.

Since that time, I have spent more time away from my Greenville home during the summer months than I have in it. I have attended countless mission trips, high school senior trips, Unidiversity Youth Camps, and summer retreats, even while being full-time in advertising for a few years.

With very little interruption, I transitioned from being a youth and volunteer to a youth minister leading these enriching endeavors.

Gathering each summer for trips and events is a highlight of not only our youths’ years but also for our youth staff. Summer offers our Youth Family time to get away from our usual school year routines to laugh, explore, and spend time together.


While there are special moments all year long within our Youth Family, summertime has always been a time marked with memories.

We are working hard to continue to provide those special memory-making moments this summer, although I am not sure we need more reasons to remember the summer of COVID! 

We have switched our focus from large group ministry to small group, conversational style engagement. Summer days that used to be filled with water coolers, games, and luggage packing have turned into lawn chairs, yard decorations, Zoom calls, and birthday parades.

This season has been fraught with disappointment and conflict, and we are concentrating on being present with our youth to remind them of our continued love and support.

We are spending our days sitting in yards with our youth listening to their frustrations and learning about their hopes and dreams for the future. These are opportunities that we are not taking for granted!

A chance to meet furry family members and personally connect with youth to share in our mutual grief and losses in this “unprecedented” season provides moments of vulnerability and humanness. We are invited onto their “home turf” to celebrate birthdays, give air hugs to high school and college graduates, and later this summer we will commemorate our new 6th graders and rising seniors.

I keep reminding myself that God is at work in all of our messes! These messes are a part of who we are and God continues to speak to us during these chaotic times. God will not stop creating, and with God’s help, we will find our new rhythm.