God’s “acolyte” in youth ministry

by Scott Franciscus, Covenant Community

From an early age, church has played an important part in my life. Growing up in the Episcopal Church, which followed a consistent liturgy, and very rarely missing the early morning worship each Sunday, I sought to become as involved with the church service as possible. As soon as I was able after being confirmed, I became an acolyte (which means “helper” or “attendant” in Greek), also known as “altar-boy”. The role of the acolyte is to assist in the worship service by carrying a processional cross, lighting candles, helping to set up and clean up the altar for communion, holding the Gospel Book that the priest read from, swinging incense, and holding the collection plates after the offering was taken.

Throughout my years in middle school and high school, I continued to take on more responsibilities as an acolyte including reading the Old or New Testament liturgy or administering the shared communion cup during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Even though my family was proud of my involvement in the church and occasionally someone from the church would comment on my “future” in the church, I did not ever see myself “called” to formal ministry. While I stayed connected to the church during my high school and college years, it was done more out of obligation than desire.

When I started attending Messiah College—in part because it was close to home— ministry was not in my plans. I entered Messiah College as a declared accounting major. Since I enjoyed accounting and did well in my accounting classes in high school, it seemed like the perfect fit for me, especially since it seemed like the perfect profession so I could get the most out of life and accomplish my dreams. Little did I know at the time that it wasn’t about my dreams and what I wanted out of life.

While at Messiah, I became involved with a group called “I’m Worth Waiting For” which offered abstinence-presentations to health classes and church youth groups. During this time, God began instilling a passion in my heart to work with young people. At the time, the church I grew up in didn’t have a ministry to youth outside of Sunday School where I could go to talk with someone about faith or struggles, or even just to hang out.

The more opportunities I had connecting with youth, the more God called me to change who I was living my life for. Although I enjoyed working with youth and taking the Bible classes at Messiah, the last place I saw myself was in ministry. I made the decision that, regardless of how I felt God leading me, regardless of his gentle persistence, going into ministry was not an option.

It took almost failing out of college for me to realize that it wasn’t about what I wanted out of life. I can still see myself walking around the bases of a baseball field as the snow was gently falling, wrestling with God on why I was not the right person. I tried to convince him there were better people to be in ministry and explain why he didn’t need to call me.

God showed me that the call wasn’t about my goodness but his, that my decisions weren’t the best but his were, that it wasn’t about my goals but his call.  He showed me that no matter how far I tried to run, he would be there waiting for me.

It was then that I decided to follow his path and listen to Christ’s voice. It was then that I realized the abundant life Jesus Christ offers. What a joy it has been being God’s “acolyte” in youth ministry ever since!