Youth Ministry and Marriage: Not So Much

Bob, Polly, Andy, Gene, Colin, ca. 1968[Virginia]: You know, just so many people will offer to be youth group leaders, but not too many people who can do that.

[Bob]: Yes, that’s right.

[Polly]: That’s true.

[Bob]: It’s a calling. There’s no question about it.

[Polly]: Yeah.

[Bob]: I had somebody call me—an old friend, a member of a church that I’d served—and said they were ready to hire a new youth leader, who’d been married three times. I don’t know whether he was still married. But at any rate, she said, “I’m really concerned about this.”

And I said, “You have every right to be.” It does not speak very clearly to the young people.

[Lee]: No. No, exactly.

[Bob]: It does. It speaks all too clearly.

[Virginia]: Yeah, right.

[Bob]: Well, they decided finally. I guess there must have been another little fuss.

He was very good, but he’d better do that in another church where his history isn’t well known. But, so they did hire somebody else.

***

[Polly]: We’ve kind of been there, done that. When we were in seminary, we had a youth group at my former home church, a Baptist church. It was wonderful, just great.

[Bob]: We had 20 or 25 kids in a small church.

[Polly]: But when in our other churches that we served—Uncle Bob did everything. And many, many times we tried to lead together. But in terms of the youth work as our kids got older, they had other leaders. I would help out in junior high and be an adviser or something when Colin was born, especially when Colin was born, up through that age. It really is, most of the time, just a better situation if you’re not right there. I don’t know, somehow they feel intimidated by a parent.

[Virginia]: Oh. Well.

[Lee]: Like you’re watching them.

[Polly]: Yeah, it’s like, “Can’t I ever. . . .”

[Bob]: Yet in Mercer [1991–1997], it was very common to have the parents involved.

[Polly]: Yeah, that’s true. In fact they liked having—some of them—they liked having their parents there.

[Bob]: We had a youth group of a hundred kids. We had seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth. And it worked out really quite nicely.

transcription of a conversation between Bob, Polly (Bob’s wife), Lee, Ken (Lee’s husband), and Virginia (Lee’s daughter) during a visit to California in January 2004, courtesy of Virginia

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • Polly, can you tell us more about leading youth groups with Uncle Bob in the early days of ministry?
  • Can anyone else tell stories on Bob about his youth ministry tactics or snafus?
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