There are a lot of things I don't know. I don't know how to juggle, knit or whistle. I don't know how to pick a lock, fold napkins into swans or drive a stick shift. I don't know how an airplane fights gravity and achieves flight. But I do know that God created me on purpose for a purpose.
I know beyond reason, beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves me, He knows me and He has an incredible destiny for me. I know this so well because every Friday night for four years I was told this in one way or another. I was shown verses in the Bible that prove God's intention for me. And I have seen and felt His grace everyday.
And the person who spent every Friday night drilling this into my head, into my heart? Todd Petkau.
Pastor Todd Petkau was a cliche and an anomaly all wrapped up in one youth pastor package.
He was friendly, tried to be hip and had a strange affinity for the colours teal and purple. He ran the youth department with energy and intensity and wasn't afraid to try the big thing, the thing that would blow the socks off the students and make the church administration cringe. He was passionate about helping youth make a connection with God and an impact on their world. He 'got' us.
He instinctively knew that the only and best way to keep youth from following their peers into negative life choices is to show them the truth of who they are. So week after week Todd always brought the message back around to the one truth that God created each one of us. He knows our hearts and our dreams. He has given us each gifts and ability so that we may change the world and reach the lost.
He realized the importance of empowering young people to take part in their own present and future. It wasn't his youth group it was our youth group. Now, he didn't just throw us into the middle of ministry and say 'have at it.' He was constantly teaching us, training us and showing us the way. We went on countless ministry retreats where he taught us how to be peer leaders, the ins and outs of pulling off a successful event and most importantly, that there is a purpose to all we do.He gave us leadership and direction but we planned the events, we organized the praise and worship, we ran the drama team. We, the youth, did it all.
I would love to say we were always successful but we weren't. I wasn't. I was at the helm of at least one major flop on a Friday night. I didn't give the team I was leading enough time to prepare for the night. I knew things were not going to go well before the evening started and I told Todd as much. He just said, "Go with it. Do what you can."
It was horribly embarrassing for me. My name was literally all over this event and we bombed in a massive way. And not only in front of our regular attenders but in front of the 50 or so youth Todd had invited from other churches. At the end of the night I was exhausted, humiliated and crushed. I thought for sure Todd was never going to trust me to lead anything again. So I wasn't surprised when Todd asked me to have a chat with him before I went home.
He calmly asked me what went wrong, gave me time to take responsibility for my short comings and then he pulled out a pen and paper and said, "Here's what you do next time." Instead of reaming me out for messing up a youth event he taught me how to prepare a timeline and how to delegate more things. And he gave me another chance.
Todd taught me a lot about who I am and the kind of person I want to be. It was more than just his words, it was how he lived his life. He was an open book with us. There was no question he would not answer - and I mean NO question. It didn't matter if we asked him about the fruit of the spirit or masturbation, he'd answer. Honestly, Biblically and Openly.
Thank you Todd for being real, for believing that a bunch of teenagers can be world changers and for showing us our true identity in Christ.
The purpose of our Youth Ministry is "To minister to young people, meeting them where they are at, winning, building and equipping them through a number of Bible based programs, with the goal of developing them to be all they can be in Christ."
-Todd Petkau, 1992