“Six Breakfasts”

 She met me in the church parking lot, long auburn hair pulled into a side -do.

“Beka! What fun to see you!” I hugged her tightly, delighted by the surprise of seeing her there. 

“Sam invited me, saying you might need help this summer,” she twisted her nose ring, grinning. “I’m not sure yet if I can, but…” she trailed off, and I jumped in.

“We’d love to have you work with the teens with us this summer, but no pressure either.”

We walked through two glass doors and into the cool interior. Teens gathered at the entrance, sprawled out across a carpeted bench and the floor, talking in knots. Guitar sounds, vocals, and drums came from upstairs as other teens prepared for worship. In the large dining room, teens joked and hung out, waiting for youth group to start.

“Want to scoop ice cream with me?” I asked Beka.

In between sticky servings of cookies and cream, chocolate fudge, and green mint ice cream, we greeted incoming students, motioned towards the spoons, and poured root beer around swirling vanilla mounds. Between conversations with teens and handing out styrofoam bowls of ice cream, I slid questions over to Beka, catching up on her last year of life.

“How long has it been since you graduated?” I asked, trying to get a picture of which students she might recognize from her own youth group days. “Samantha does choir at Centennial,” I offered, as blonde Samantha came by. The girls chatted about a familiar choir teacher’s fourth pregnancy.

“Almost four years,” Beka replied a second later, as the line moved again.

“Four years?! Really?” My eyes were wide as I dished up drippy melting cookies and cream. “As our seventeen years here merge in our minds, I find myself thinking that all my teens know each other.” 

“Is this normal chocolate?” a teen in short black hair asked. I agreed, yet pointed him to the chunkier chocolate option too. 

Spread out across the large room students clustered. Rising taller than the rest were five or six older broad-shouldered, college-grads and twenty-something youth leader volunteers too. Beka was the newest one considering joining– some had already been helping for the last year or two. Mentoring younger students in worship-leading, in soundboard-operating, or by regular attendance and participation, these former students work alongside our long-term adult leaders to serve current students.

Glancing across the dining hall, my heart was happy. Youth ministry is the privilege that never ends. Round-cheeked 6th graders grow into lanky high schoolers, who soon sport woodsmen beards and pay college tuition. Weddings, babies, and school-age children swell the families of former students of ours throughout the years, and their jobs change and grow. We see the impact these former students are having on their worlds now, and it thrills us. 

“Six breakfasts” is what Youth Specialties speaker Tiger McLuen once told a roomful of youth workers. He went on to describe how an adult reached out to him during a spiritually-hard time after his first year of college. For six weeks, they met to talk over breakfast. “Those six breakfasts changed me,” he told the somber room of youth pastors and volunteers last spring.

Youth ministry is a privilege that doesn’t end. My husband and I are honored to get to know teens of all ages, and for opportunities to connect with them after their youth group years. Tonight, several former students will pull up into our driveway, and sprawl across our sagging couch to learn how to do youth ministries to the new generation of teens, and I will be smiling happy, I know. Older ones mentoring younger ones mentoring younger ones.

We are thankful for chances to offer hope and advice into any of our teens’ lives, and we humbly recognize how much we learn and are encouraged by them too.

What about you? Whatever your vocation or volunteer options, who can you invite out for breakfast or coffee? It will be a privilege and joy for you too, my friend.

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  1. Bill (cycleguy) on June 5, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    I tend to do lunch not breakfast. I need my morning study time and forego a bike ride if necessary to have lunch with someone.

  2. Southern Gal on June 5, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    Ministry opportunities are all around us, aren't they?

  3. Cheryl Barker on June 6, 2014 at 12:58 am

    What an important story – and truth — to share about six breakfasts. Awe-inspiring to think about how a small investment in someone's life can make such a huge difference. Thanks for the reminder — and God bless your ministry to young people!

  4. bluecottonmemory on June 6, 2014 at 8:02 am

    My boys struggle with youth – and the lack of real relationship. Youth leaders tend to be young, hip 20 somethings and parents are relegated back to the nursery – which is where the 20 somethings used to serve because they had babies there. None of my boys ever connected in the youth – the ones now don't – so we've developed a relaxed small group of parents with teens – parents who are interested in "mentoring" – building real relationships with these teens – because teens want real – not over-crowded space with about 100 youth playing games. I love what your youth sounds like!

  5. Floyd on June 7, 2014 at 12:10 am

    You have a wonderful perspective, Jennifer. That it the heart that our Father uses to make the next generation stronger. Awesome calling, sister. That I think is the most important of all positions in the church.

  6. Pamela on June 8, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    I love that – six breakfasts! It's important for the teens to know they are cared for, prayed over and can touch the wisdom of leaders even if they don't know they need it now. I'd say your group is blessed to have you to lead them.

  7. Jennifer Dougan on June 10, 2014 at 11:40 pm


    Sorry for my delay. Morning study time is what I like best too, but don't always get to in time.

    Jennifer Dougan

  8. Jennifer Dougan on June 10, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    So true, Southern Gal. Thanks for stopping in.

    Jennifer Dougan

  9. Jennifer Dougan on June 10, 2014 at 11:44 pm


    Isn't the idea of six breakfasts encouraging?! It breaks the sometimes-daunting down to something tangible sometimes.

    Jennifer Dougan

  10. Jennifer Dougan on June 11, 2014 at 12:01 am

    Blue Cotton,

    Youth ministry is tricky, huh? While we appreciate younger leaders too, we also very much need older, more longterm leaders as well. We prefer too for any of our leaders to at least commit for one year, since studies show it takes 6-12 months to earn a teen's trust. Most of our youth volunteers have worked alongside us for years and years, and love being able to mentor and invest in the teens longterm.

    I'm sorry your kids haven't had as good of experiences with youth groups. This new small group intentional mentoring you mentioned sounds great though. 🙂 I'm thankful for that for you and see that as such a vital side thing to come alongside parenting (secondary to, of course).

    Warm blessings to you and your family,
    Jennifer Dougan

  11. Jennifer Dougan on June 11, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Thanks, Floyd, for your encouragement. 🙂 We feel so lucky to be able to do it, and love our teens from throughout the 18 years or so.

    Jennifer Dougan

  12. Jennifer Dougan on June 11, 2014 at 1:03 am

    Thanks, Pamela. Six breakfasts really breaks it down into manageable bits doesn't it? And I love the privilege of being involved in our teens' and former-teens' lives.

    Have a great week,
    Jennifer Dougan

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