Pilgrim Core: 24/7

It’s that time of year again. Youth ministers and Core Teams around the country have begun preparing for another year of leading teens closer to Christ. Many of us are coming off a summer camp or mission trip “high” and are getting all the pieces in place for another amazing year. In this time where many youth ministries take a break from Life and Edge Nights, let us remember to not take a break from our faith.

After serving 20 years as either a Core Member or youth minister, I know all too well the desire to take time off from evangelizing, and just wanting to relax. So I want to encourage you to take time off and rejuvenate, but do so as an evangelist and witness. Signing up to lead teens to Christ means striving to love God and neighbor with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, 24-hours and day, seven days a week. It’s not easy and yes you will mess up. But even those mess ups can be opportunities to witness.

For example, on previous mission trips we had tremendous success working and bonding as a team. This time, however, we struggled to unite as a family. There was a disconnect throughout the week that I couldn’t figure out. It wasn’t until after the trip when a trusted Core member confronted me. Apparently at some key moments during the trip I acted or spoke in ways that hurt individuals. This created a chain reaction throughout the group. Upon reflection, I realized that in each of these moments I had acted out of pride and selfishness. I quickly reached out to each person, apologized and did my best to heal those wounds. I can’t go back and fix the trip, but I can still be an example of God’s grace.

I am not perfect; you are not perfect; no one is perfect except our Father in heaven. As we serve Him, we do so as His wounded hands and feet. We do so whether we are at work or rest, at a Life or Edge Night or on a beach. Those moments of weakness on the mission trip weren’t isolated events. They were connected to the period prior to the trip in which I had grown lax in my prayer and discipline. Likewise, the humbling apologies I uttered afterward were part and parcel of those times I remained faithful and cooperated with his grace.

I believe we have a tendency to view life as a series of separate events or boxes, similar to our culture’s errant understanding of the separation of church and state. In reality, all of life is connected, much like Pope Francis demonstrates in his beautiful encyclical, Laudato Si. What I do in the privacy of my home or the solitude of my mind affects and informs what I do and think in public. I must strive to be a witness 24/7, even when I think no one is looking.

As Josef Pieper states, we are each of us, pilgrims on the way. Our pilgrim nature is what enables us to hope and continue on the way. As St. Paul says in Phil. 2:12, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” The weary pilgrim finds rest along the way, not by leaving the pilgrim trail but by finding a safe and hospitable refuge along the trail; such as prayer, retreat, and community. When we seek to rejuvenate or to escape the pressures of youth ministry we leave behind our faith and morals at our own risk much as the pilgrim leaves the pilgrim trail to his own risk.


Image via FlickrCC 2.0, Logo added 

About the Author

Michael Gagnon

Michael is a husband and father of three children and has been a youth minister for 15 years with a Master's in Theology from the University of Dallas. Through many years of struggle he's embraced his innate awkwardness and uses it to share his faith with others. God has called him to serve by serving young people and their families and to help them encounter Christ. As Leon Bloy once said, "At the end of life there is only on great tragedy, not to have been a saint." You can read more of his writings at

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