HAGERSTOWN, MD - Youth pastors leave churches on a regular basis. Youth pastors are even occasionally fired. However, youth pastors are not normally fired for teaching too much bible. That's what happened last month at Exciting Grace Lutheran Church.
Jeremy Willis, former youth pastor at Exciting Grace, contacted us at TBNN to tell his story. He is still upset and shocked at the situation.
According to Willis, "After graduating from bible college in Richmond, I really wanted to serve the Lord in youth ministry. I mailed out my resume all over, and was quickly contacted by Exciting Grace. When I visited the church, we had a great meeting. The search committee told me that they really wanted their kids to learn the bible. They said that the parents were not doing a good job of it, and that I needed to be the one to do it. I also met with the youth. The whole visit was exciting and encouraging."
That was in October of 2005. Unfortunately for Willis, by early 2006, the grumbling had begun amongst the parents and youth.
Willis told us, "I went to Exciting Grace looking forward to teaching the bible and leading the youth to grow in their knowledge of and obedience to the Lord Jesus. Because of that, on almost every occasion that the youth gathered, I taught some bible. We usually also played some games, sang songs, and ate unhealthy food. However, the focus was God's Word. I get thrilled to see teens who dive into the bible. I love it when their eyes light up when they understand a concept for the first time. That was apparently not what some people wanted."
It appears that Willis' vision for youth group differs from that of many of the folks at Exciting Grace.
Wendy Simpson, who has two children in the Exciting Grace youth group, told TBNN, "Kids spend a lot of their day in school. They need a place where they can go to feel relaxed and accepted. They don't need a lot more instruction. They have hard lives at school. Where better for them to have exciting fun than at church? Pastor Willis just taught too much bible."
Rev. Phil Chambers, senior pastor at the church, would not grant TBNN an interview, but did send us a letter. In it Chambers said, "Jeremy Willis is a fine teacher of the bible. However, our youth and parents have a vision of a youth group that centers on the needs of the kids. Youth these days need a place where they can have good, clean fun in a safe environment. Mr. Willis' dismissal has nothing to do with him personally, but rather speaks to the difference in vision about what a youth group should be. Teaching the bible is fine, but just not too much bible."
Willis is currently out of work and looking for another youth position. He summed up the situation this way, "When they interviewed me, they told me they wanted bible. But when I got there, that wasn't the case. What they really want is exciting fun."
Who will be the next youth pastor at Exciting Grace? Mrs. Simpson, who we quoted above, told us, "We need someone who knows their bible, but also someone who likes to have a good time. Skills such as juggling, horseback riding, and pie eating are all desirable."