Kristin is a friend from my church who speaks and does comedy improv for a living. Her dry humor is always a surprise and a delight, and I promise you, she really does practice what she preaches here. Enjoy!
I own an eight-year-old light blue Toyota Highlander. It’s a reliable car, even if it isn’t a lime green Cube. (My dream car. Don’t judge.)
A few years ago I began leading a home group for high school girls through my church. It was my first time volunteering in a way that required a commitment to investing in the lives of others.
At the beginning of each semester I gave an open ended offer to pick up or drop off anyone needing a ride to or from home group or church. If I’m honest, I offered more out of a strange leader-ish obligation than I did a desire to drive teens around.
Many of the girls already had driver’s licenses and owned cooler cars than mine (though none were cooler than a lime green Cube), but during the first year, as our group grew from six to eight to 12 and finally settled around 20ish young ladies, a week rarely went by that I didn't pick up or drop someone off.
I have three rules in my car: no country music, please don't bury yourself in your phone, and if it's on the floor you may put your feet on it or kick it out of the way. (Keeping my car clean is an uphill battle. Cars are a bit like human hearts. They get messy fast if you don’t consistently purge them of junk. And that’s probably both the deepest and cheesiest thing I’ve ever written.)
I had various expectations and assumptions about how student ministry might go, but I definitely didn’t expect my car to be so instrumental in ministering to teens.
Away from the presence of peers, there was no need to try and say the right thing or impress anyone. There was only the time between point A and point B and silence to fill. Questions were asked, doubts expressed, sins confessed, hurts shared, joys celebrated, and my very ordinary car became an unlikely sanctuary for teenagers needing a moment of vulnerability.
My car is where God reminded me that He’s mighty to save—and curious, narcissistic, goofy, selfish, insecure, shy, rebellious, awkward teenagers are part of His remnant.
After several weeks of driving one young lady home, listening to her struggles and answering her questions as best I could, I got to see the burden of the world lift from her shoulders as she realized Jesus wasn’t just a man in a story, but her personal Savior.
My car is where I learned teenagers are ready for harder theological truths. They need these deeper truths. Desperately. Our culture constantly pumps them full of lies; lies that can’t be fought with books about self-esteem and posters about chasing your dreams. They can be fought only with the transformative power of the Holy Spirit and the freeing power of the gospel.
Lastly, my car is where I realized how much I needed God. I’ve never prayed more desperately for the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom, discernment, and grace than when messy sin got brought to light in my messy car.
Last year my high school students graduated and I defected to middle school ministry, where I currently lead a pack of wonderfully precocious 6th grade girls.
Eleven year olds, however, are much, much (insert infinity much’s) different than 11th graders, and the car conversations have taken on a new dynamic. Sometimes we talk about favorite foods. Sometimes it’s listening to theories about why they think we’ll all ride unicorns in heaven. Sometimes they rebelliously sing country songs or try sneaking my radio to a country music station, which means I have to exercise godly discipline and make them walk the rest of the way home. (We live in the suburbs. It’s safe.)
Someone once told me youth ministry is all about sowing seeds. It often feels like conversations about “little things” aren’t doing anything. But, tending to and caring about the little things (which are often the “big things” to a young girl) yields conversations about deeper truths.
Seeing God bring fruit out of a something as simple as offering a ride home has encouraged my own soul. In moments where I’m tempted to believe that nothing I do makes a difference, I remember that I serve a God who uses ordinary people with ordinary cars to achieve His extraordinary will.
I pray God continues using my car in youth ministry. I also selfishly pray that someday these conversations will take place in a lime green Cube, but I’ve accepted that I may have to wait until heaven to drive my dream car.
Only then I won’t need one because we’ll all be riding unicorns.
Kristin is a writer, speaker, and comic from Dallas. Her first book, “The Smart Girl’s Guide to God, Guys and the Galaxy,” a humorous advice book for teen girls, hits stores in April. She enjoys deep conversations, Chipotle, and deep conversations about Chipotle. You can find her on Twitter @Kristinweb