Sometimes a youth pastor, or any pastor for that matter, comes to a new church with excitement on the outside, but on the inside we’re carrying some baggage and nursing all kinds of scars. This baggage and scars may come from the way we were treated as we left our previous church, maybe even some guilt for leaving those who’s lives they spoke into. Whatever the case, the baggage is heavy and the scars are fresh. And that’s exactly where my family and I found ourselves as we came to our new church 365 days ago!

As I started my new ministry position, my excitement for ministry was fading. I tried not to let my ministry “baggage” or scars get in the way of what I felt God wanted me to do here. I took some time to evaluate the programming and tried to gauge the maturity, both spiritual and emotional, of my new group of students. Once I did that, I hit the ground running! Little change here…little tweak there…add this program here…this outing there…ahhh back to “normal”! But as the weeks went on nothing really seemed to be working. Students didn’t seem excited and I know I wasn’t. Then I realized something…the “normal” I had reached was the same “normal” in ministry that gave me the extra baggage and a lot of the scars.

This wasn’t the same church I had come from and these weren’t the same students so why would I think the same programming would work for them? Why was I trying to make myself comfortable with what I was doing instead of trying to help students grab onto and grow into a deep relationship with Jesus? I’ll tell you why…because I still had a death grip on my ministry “baggage”. When we have our hands full with the trauma from our past experiences with old pastors, old churches, old parents, old “jobs”, old anything, we don’t leave our hands free to grab onto what God has planned for us.

It took me a few months after I realized this to finally let go of the baggage; to finally be willing to forgive and ready to grab on to what God has planned for this ministry and for my life. I had to reevaluate everything I did and everything I didn’t do in ministry. It was God’s way of showing me Isaiah 55:8 (don’t worry – I had to look it up too!) Once my hands were free and I took hold of God’s plan; not only did the way I do ministry change, but my life did too. There is excitement again and it is growing!

It took a few hits in the head with the “divine 2X4” to work through my baggage and scars, but God put away the baggage and healed the scars! I’m so glad God loves us enough to work through the junk of our lives with us. It’s amazing what can happen when we’re willing to put the baggage down.

Nate Eckert is the youth pastor at Flora United Methodist Church in Flora, IN.