I mentioned Clark in a previous post, but for those of you who do not want to scroll down or click on a link, let me remind you of him. He is recently out of high school, and I'm not sure he quite knows what to do with himself. He didn't go to college, while most of his friends have moved away, and while he still has friends that are in the local high school, it sounds like his relationships with those people are strained. The college aged population at our church is nonexistent, since there is only a community college nearby. His mother, who is active in both the worship and the youth ministry committees, and seems to be worried because he is not involved in much outside of his job on the farm, tries to pull him into different things at church, which mainly turn out to be youth oriented activities. He helped with the last youth led worship service, but I think it was weird and a bit awkward for him because he knows that the youth group is no longer his niche.
I went to Subway for lunch today, and ran into one of my favorite youth [editor's note: that would be IF we were allowed to have favorites, because everyone knows we are not.]
She was just getting off of work (she could work on a weekday because they have spring break all week) and so she sat with me as I ate my sandwich. As we were talking, we got onto the subject of Clark. Supposedly he had a date lined up with a girl who is a senior in high school, and that fell through because the girl thought "it just wouldn't work out." The girl from my youth group, "Sarah", said that she felt sorry for Clark because he's so lonely because his good friends are not around. It is obvious, to most of the youth, that Clark is struggling and leaning towards not involving himself with church anymore because he feels as if he doesn't belong.
Now, I personally invited him to young adult bowling which is coming up in about a week. He said he'd "see." Clark and I get along really well. People have said we have similarities in our personalities and we're constantly joking back and forth. And I've noticed Clark has kind of gravitated towards me. After worship or at different church functions he'll always find his way over to me. And there are times he's hinted about doing something outside of church. The other night, after an activity at church, he said something along the lines of "I'm kinda hungry... I think I might go get something to eat." He said it while he was right next to me, but in a low tone and not directly facing me. Then, tonight after Good Friday services I was talking to some people (his mother and sister included) and they were trying to figure out who would be giving his sister a ride home. Clark said, "I might not be going home. I don't know what I'd be doing, but I might not be going home." Then he kind of looked around the group and then at me, then when I walked off to go do something he kind of followed behind.
Clark is one of those people at this church that have found a way into my heart. I think he is a great guy and has a lot of gifts, and it is no fun to hear that he is struggling. And I want to reach out to him. But here's where I struggle. How do I do it? I would be willing to spend time with him, to go out to eat or to a movie or just hang out and chat. But there is a fear that a portion of the congregation just sees me more as a kid than a pastor, and to hang out with Clark would just affirm that. That it would take away any remaining shred of pastoral authority I have left.
Another fear is that, if I do end up forming a stronger friendship/mentorship with Clark, what happens when I leave? There's just another relationship in Clark's life that has been severed and there he is, all alone. Again. And there's that boundary issue that the seminary tries to enforce. Once you leave an internship congregation you are basically supposed to severe all ties with the people that you have formed there, so as to not impede the formation of relationships for the next intern. So it would be frowned on for me to try to continue some sort of friendship/mentorship with Clark beyond these next five months.
So the title of this blog is "blogger wisdom" because I'm counting on the tried and true wisdom and insights of the blogging and reading community. Help me out here! Do I reach out to this obviously struggling young man? How do I do that? How do I deal with the repurcussions, or am I just blowing that whole bit out of proportion? HELP!! (funny, right now, according to the clock on my computer, the time is 9:11. That's the same number as the Emergency Helpline. Weird.)