It's been a year since I resigned as the youth pastor of a local church. I served that faith community for ten years. Along the way, I collected a ton of great memories, lessons, and friends.
I'm now in a fun role where I get to work with, care for, and train youth pastors. Recently, one of those youth pastors asked me, "Looking back at your time as a youth pastor, what's your biggest regret?".
I have the spiritual gift of selective forgetfulness. I legitimately have a difficult time remembering criticism, awkward conversations, and painful conflicts. For the most part, this has served me well. So when I was asked about my biggest regret, I had a hard time recalling the negative aspects of that season of my life.
The other day my family was leaving the house to drive to church. Suddenly my 4-year old ran back into the house, up the stairs, and started to climb her bookcase to get her piggy bank. I asked her what she was doing, and she replied: "Jesus needs my money."
Her theology may have been off, but that's ok. She's only four.
I was instantly impressed with the children's ministry at my church because they were teaching her to live generously with her money at such a young age. Especially because I had just started tithing one-year prior.
"You mean you were working at a church for a decade and weren't tithing?".
Well - technically - I did tithe. While on staff at my local church, I agreed to have 10% automatically deducted from my paycheque as a tithe. So, yes, according to the church records and the government, I was giving 10% of my pay to the church.
In hindsight, (for me) this auto-tithe wasn't an act of worship. There was no felt sacrifice involved, and it did not cause me to grow in trusting Jesus.
Now I'm in a place where I have to make a choice with every paycheque of who I'm going to trust: myself or Jesus. Learning to live generously with my finances has stretched my faith like nothing else. I'd even go so far to say that tithing/giving has been the most catalytic practice in deepening my relationship with Jesus.
So what does it have to do with my biggest regret in youth ministry?
I realized I never taught students to live generously with their finances.
I did not set them up for success in this area. And when they start making money, they will (most likely) have a hard time trusting Jesus with their wallet. That's on me.
If I knew what giving/tithing did to spiritual vitality while I was a youth pastor, I would've made it a priority while working with teenagers.
If you lead or pastor students, I want to encourage you to rethink what you say (or don't say) about giving as you disciple teenagers. Because not teaching on giving or providing an opportunity for students to worship Jesus in this way is the biggest regret I have in youth ministry.