Getting involved in a youth group can be a life-changing experience.
Good youth groups foster independence and provide a place to learn leadership skills. They’re a safe haven where kids can be silly and express themselves. Above all, youth groups are a place to learn to love a higher power.
There’s really no better place to be as a teen, says Broadway Church’s youth pastor Megan Janz.
“I had grown up going to youth group,” she said. “And it was the best time of my life. I never wanted to leave.”
So, she didn’t.
After completing high school, she went off to Columbia Bible College. But through those years she kept volunteering at church, and staying connected to youth. Before she even completed her BA in Youth Work, she had already secured her current job at Broadway. She’s held down that fort for the past seven years now, finished that bachelor’s degree, and has seen hundreds of teens come through the church doors.
At a quick glance, being a youth pastor seems like a pretty easygoing job.
There are the impromptu Nerf gun wars, high-fives in the hallways, trips to Mexico with kids eager to make a difference, coffee dates to talk about God, the universe and everything under the sun. Most recent mornings, her puppy Whimsy has been at her feet, ready for a quick cuddle or roam around the church.
But in reality it’s not all fun and games. This is not about party planning and it’s certainly not babysitting.
Janz is tasked with the spiritual well-being of the kids who walk through her doors for youth group. They are teetering on the edge of adulthood, and no matter which they fall she’s there to catch them.
Every summer, as the youth groups go dormant for a few months, she spend time connecting with young leaders volunteering up at Stillwood Conference Centre and other camps.
It’s a highlight of her job, to see kids walking the walk and giving themselves to a higher purpose. Whether that means taking on a big volunteer role at a summer camp, or serving on mission trips, or truly seeking answers, Janz takes notice when her kids “actively live it out.”
But she sees the other side of the coin, too.
“There are huge rewards,” Janz says, sitting in her office at Broadway. “But you see kids make mistakes and poor choices and wish you had done something more to help them. Sometimes I take ownership of them and think what more can I do?”
Time has taught her to worry less, to remember that she’s not a parent, and to just be beside them in their times of need.
“In coming alongside kids in their adolescence, I am a big part of their life,” she says. “And I know the story is never done, no matter what they’re going through.”
She also spends a great deal of time connecting with parents, learning more about the kids, and volunteering as a coach at Chilliwack middle school.
Growing up, she had never imagined herself as a youth pastor. In her world, pastors were always men. When others suggested the role would be a perfect one for her, it took her by surprise. But she trusted in the advice and went for it.
Through her work at the church, she met her husband, Jeff who is also a Broadway youth leader. Together, they help each other through the highs and lows of working with youth.
Janz also finds solace in the very words they’re all there to learn about and to celebrate. One phrase from Zephaniah 3:17 sticks out in her mind through the more stressful days.
“It has the words: ‘With his love, he will calm all your fears,'” she says.
“The leadership part can make me anxious sometimes, but I just have to remember it’s out of my hand and it’s bigger than this situation, and God’s in control.”