Music to Die For
Distressed about Spiritual Formation

Why I Became a Minister

It was January 2000. Tim Youmans had been at FBC Shawnee just a few months. We had become good friends. He and Karen had been a blast of fresh air into my life and my religious life. I was becoming disenchanted with church before Tim and bored of my roles leading the college ministry, serving as a deacon, and being on the task force that oversaw the creation of our ministries center (which kept bogging down). But Tim and Karen had rejuvenated me. And I think I helped Tim in a lot of ways. He too needed a friend of like mind while trying to navigate his return to Oklahoma baptist life (something he's still trying to navigate).

Tim asked me to go as a sponsor to the January Retreat which was on the weekend of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. I agreed to go, with some reluctance. I had never felt an affinity for youth ministry. Though I had been called as a minister at the age of five (though my Mom will say she knew it before I was even born) and had been ordained in 1997, I had never felt any interest in youth ministry. Once, in college, our youth minister back in Miami asked me to do youth stuff and I told him "I'm not good at that. I didn't understand teenagers when I was one, and I definitely don't now."

There was a party at my house the Friday night we were leaving. We laughed about me going on a youth retreat. One of my friends drove me over to the church where we were gathering to get on the bus to go. I sat up front with Tim and Jan Tipton and David James, both good friends. We had long been on the same sides of lots of church issues. Jan was social justice and missions oriented. She was divorced and re-married. David is a recovering alcoholic. They were people who had lived life and could speak with honesty and integrity about the good and the bad. Tim, Jan, David, and I have long been great conversation companions (and dominoes players!).

When we got going, Tim introduced me to the bus of youth. Though I had been in the church for six years and had been prominent in church leadership roles, I did not know many of the teenagers or them me.

Will Sims was a sophomore and not a member of FBC. He was a Methodist who, along with a bunch of non-FBC, non-baptist kids, came with their friends to our youth group. When Tim introduced me as "Deacon Scott," Will somehow misheard and misunderstood (we still don't know how) and thought my name was "Stevie Deacs." Needless to say, that nickname stuck and there are a group of early-twentysomethings out there who still call me that or the shortened "Deacs."

Little did I know that that nickname was just the beginning. Will wanted to talk to me and ask me questions. Being a philosopher, sometimes people are curious what this is and what you know. He pulled me into conversations with him and the other sophomore guys like Matt, Tyler, Tony, O'Sung, Adam, Aaron, etc. Over the course of the weekend we talked and played. They fell in love with Capture the Flag the way I taught it to them.

That weekend I saw in Tim's ministry a youth minstry I had never seen or experienced. He was singing secular songs. He was singing religious songs that were edgy and profound at the same time. He played a video of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The topics we dealt with were radical issues -- racism, economic prejudice, homosexuality, etc. Wow! Could youth ministry really do this?

And those teenagers drew me in. They asked me questions. Frank questions. Serious questions. Silly questions. Deep questions.

And it didn't stop. After that weekend they wanted me to start coming on Wednesday nights. Tim recruited me to lead a series that February on the philosophy of religion, and they packed the room to hear these discussions of the problem of evil, religious pluralism, the nature of God, etc. Finally they talked me into coming every Wednesday. Then they wanted me to come to their guys' cell group on Sunday nights. So, I joined that. We'd meet for dinner at the Little's house and Rocky Wade would lead the devotional. Then we'd go upstairs and play pool and ping pong and watch Jackass together. But that wasn't enough. They wanted me to teach their Sunday school class, so eventually I resigned as director of the college ministry and became the 9th & 10th grade teacher. Within four months I had a completely different set of roles to fill at church.

Not just these guys, but all the youth, asked me questions. I had early on decided that I would always answer honestly and directly and wouldn't simplify the complex things. They asked about the bible and prayer and theological issues. But they also asked about drugs and drinking and sex and dating and every range of real life issues. And they weren't asking theory. They wanted to know what I had done and what I hadn't. What my views were. Etc. And, as promised, I answered even when it wasn't flattering to me to tell the truth.

What happened? They opened up to me. They shared about their struggles with drugs and alcohol. They shared about the sex they were having. They wanted to talk about loneliness. They talked about troubles with their parents. They talked about all the everyday ethical choices they faced. And in those moments I ministered to them.

In February 2001 when I was trying to decide to pursue academia or the job at Rolling Hills, I had a moment of spiritual revelation in Tim's office. As a minister I could have more practical impact on actually helping people than I could as a professor. Why did I have that moment? Because two parents had just come in to talk to Tim and me about their daughter being institutionalized for an eating disorder. And just the week before one of our kids had BOTH their parents arrested for sexually abusing their nieces. And that same week a bisexual girl in the group had told me and Tim that she had been raped by a boy.

God called me to youth ministry. God used Tim Youmans and Will Sims and Matt Little and Tyler Holland and Adam Shepherd and Aaron Vogel and Jan Tipton and David James and Carrie Dyer and Andrea Collum and Molly McMurry and Marshall Behre and too many other kids to name but that these will stand as representatives of. And they called me to a ministry that meant really helping kids with the real issues that they face. The things they face in life are rarely nice. But I do everything I can to be open to the teenagers in my care, to let them know that I'm a real person who has faced things similar to what they have faced, that I've lived a real life. And every time, every time, the return is that they open up and share their lives with me and maybe, just maybe, I can help.

Comments

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marty

Scott.
If I ever have children (which seems so far fetched as to almost make what I'm about to type too absurd to proceed), I'm going to do everything in my meager power to get you in the position of youth minister at our church. Even if that church is my backyard or the kitchen of my tiny apartment.
I love you and I love your ministry. Anybody who chooses to miss how profound the impact is that you have on your kids and the impact they have on you is just choosing blindness over sight.
I know the words you'll hear one day. I read them in a book. "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
I love you. Keep building the wonderful Kingdom.

kelly

you're a good man, scott.

Tim

I love this story, especially since I get to be in it, still to this day!

This youth group misses you dearly. I met an OBU student this semester who is a philosophy major and have invited him to lunch. I have peaked his interest in our youth group with some of the things we deal with. But the group has changed, the kids are different, not nearly as interested in some of the issues we covered back then.

The ebb and flow.

kara

ah Scott! you make me so happy! i am so glad that you are out there making a difference! thank you for doing what you do... and doing it SO well!
I love you!~

michael

There are few people in the world that have the opportunity to touch and change the future. Thank God that it is you. I can’t imagine a better person for the job.
I have always thought that revival will start with the youth. They are honest, true, and are willing to ask hard questions…. This is what the kingdom of God needs.

natalie

I really want to talk to you in person in greater depth about this, because I feel that as a youth right now, I have some nice perspective on what you do and how you do it, and how it affects me. These past few months, as I've struggled with the ideas of getting out on my own early, moving on, taking risks, you have been there to listen, and even though you disagree, to counsel to the best of your ability, objectively, which is a really good thing. Two years ago, I never would have thought that someone like you would come into my life. Two years ago, I didn't think I would be alive to see if that would happen. Two years ago, I had no hope in the possibility that it would happen. You are a blessing to me, Scott, every day, whether you realize it or not, and I just want you to know that I am always ready to switch places, and be the ears that listen to you, and the mind that gives you another perspective, and the heart that loves you unconditionally. You rock my socks off.

Jennifer

And, Natalie, how grateful we are to be blessed by you - blessed that you are here with us today making a difference in our lives.

And, for Scott, I have said it before that our church is blessed for you to be in our presence. With the prospect of having two children become youth in fewer years than we can imagine, I pray for them to have an influence like you in their lives.

marycasey

korky garfield- i came into the youth group when Friar Tim was our youth minister. I fell in love with his way of doing things. His songs, his teachings, his love. When he left it seemed as though the youth group just kinda held on. Then Debbie came. She had a COMPLETELY differnent way of doing things, but that isnt always a bad thing.I was one of the minority that was open to her new ideas and ways. After she left our church our youth group again barely held on. Then you came. You were more like Tim yet you arent tim. You are you. Scott. Korky. You are wonderful and loving and funny and caring and just a lovely friend. I love you Scott and I thank you for everything.For going to lunch.For coming to my dance performance. For just being you!

Marshall Behre

Its late and Im feeling a bit emotional, but I think that thanks are in order. I appreciate everything that you have ever done for me. When you taught my middle school(7th and 8th grade) Sunday School class, it was really the beginning of my experience with religion. Before, it had been "the Bible says this and you should behave like this". During this time and beyond, I started making my own conclusions about the steps that I need to take in my religious "walk". Anyone who has ever asked me who the most influential person in my Christian life is or was has recieved the answer Scott Jones. I appreciate and relish everything that you have done for me, from a church standpoint to the things that make me consider you a friend, like putting me up in your house while I was in Texas. So cheers to you and thank you so much.

Sammi Maxwell

Is Jan Tipton the same as Cheri Jan Tipton, who graduated from OBC back in the '70s? Used to work with Wycliffe Bible Translators and was in Peru? I'm looking for her! I worked with her in Gunnison, CO back in the '80s and she had a huge influence on my getting saved.

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