Last Friday night we held the 7th Annual Youth Worker Appreciation Dinner. One hundred sixty youth workers attended this event and a great time was had by all. Our staff went all out to affirm, appreciate and celebrate youth workers. Carrabba's provided the food, really good food and The Melting Pot provided a fantastic Chocolate Bar. We had two Harley’s in the lobby of the YouthFront Auditorium for youth workers to climb on and a photographer to take their picture. Rivers Partin, Nick Pickrell, Aaron Mitchum and Eric Peterson provided some genuinely funny skits for laughter therapy. Every youth worker received a gift bag filled with stuff like a new book by Steve Case from Youth Specialties, a free paintball session, a Nooma Video from Rob Bell, a resource packet from Doug Fields, and much, much more.
We also gave special awards to youth workers who were nominated for Rookie of the Year, Above and Beyond the Call of Duty, Best Volunteer, Most Embarrassing Youth Ministry Moment, and the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Best Volunteer Award was a tie this year and one of the recipients is 76 years old. Both the Rookie of the Year and Above the Call of Duty recipients received free registrations to the National Youth Workers Convention (a $300 gift) provided by our friends at Youth Specialties.
A highlight for me was giving the Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Ed Robinson. Dr. Robinson began doing youth ministry in 1970 serving in several churches. In 1986 Dr. Robinson came to Nazarene Theological Seminary as a Professor of Christian Education with Specialization in Youth Ministry. Dr. Robinson was unwilling to teach youth ministry from a theoretical and past experience point of reference. He and his wife Nancy continued teaching and mentoring young people in church youth group. In 1992 Dr. Robinson took a Sabbatical to study Urban Youth Ministry Models and in 2004 helped found the Kansas City Urban Youth Center. Dr. Robinson has written many Youth Ministry Books and Articles and has been a member of the Association of Youth Ministry Educators.
Dr. Robinson is a great example for youth workers who know him. He has demonstrated steadfastness over a long time. I remember seeing him at a Core Youth Ministry training event at YouthFront. He was not there in the role of expert but in the role of student. Dr. Robinson has been a life-long learner. Last year Dr. Robinson was named the new President of Mid-America Nazarene University. A youth worker, one of us, appointed President of a University, YES! Dr. Robinson has entered into this position as a youth pastor working with hundreds of late adolescents.
I quoted Mark Twain when introducing Dr. Robinson, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great.” Dr. Robinson did not allow people to belittle his ambitions and he has helped many of us feel that we too can serve faithfully for a lifetime.
Dr. Robinson graciously accepted his award and spoke words fitly spoken dripping with wisdom and passion. His acceptance speech and words of encouragement to all of us youth workers who look up to him provided a perfect conclusion to a wonderful night.
After we dismissed youth workers stayed ate chocolate and talked. They wouldn’t leave. The last youth workers left two hours after the program was over. At 10:30 PM I left the auditorium and walked to another part of our complex where a room full of teenagers were in engaged in intense worship. I drove home that night feeling very fulfilled to be in youth ministry. What a night. Below is a picture of Dr. Robinson and Nancy on the motorcycles.