Len Teague, the associate pastor of children and youth at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, will reach 30 remarkable years in youth ministry this June.
Teague, who is a native of Knoxville, Tenn., received his bachelors degree in psychology from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 1976 and his Master of Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1988. He served as the chaplain at the Baylor school and then as the area director for Young Life Chattanooga. Then in 1990, he came to Lookout Mountain Presbyterian as the youth director, where he has served for the past 25 years.
“I always saw my position at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian as a career and not just a five year job. I loved working with high school students and knew that I wasn’t going to give up,” said Teague.
When Teague first started at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian, the youth program had 35 students which included middle school and high school. He had very few volunteers and nothing really happened at youth group on Wednesday nights.
“I saw the youth ministry as something to build on. The fact that I planned to be here long term gave credibility to me and the ministry, which made it easier to recruit more students and volunteers. I also started small groups my first year. By grace, the ministry grew,” said Teague.
Now, 25 years later, Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church’s youth program has more than 150 students including high school and middle school, four youth staff workers, an established small group ministry, and several faithful volunteers.
“Working with staff and volunteers is one of my favorite things about youth ministry. I especially love seeing volunteer leaders devote themselves to the students so that the students have the opportunity to hear and live the Gospel with others,” said Teague.
However, Len Teague also taught four youth ministry classes at Covenant College for 20 years. He taught his final class spring 2014 and then handed over the teaching to Danny Mitchell, one of Teague’s former students and the current coordinator for youth ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America’s committee for discipleship ministries.
“Teaching at Covenant is one of the main reasons I have stayed motivated and commited to youth ministry. It helped me stay in touch with the changing culture and the changes in the way youth respond to people trying to minister to them. It helped me stay focused on the basic principles for relational youth ministry,” said Teague.
Teague said that his favorite part about youth ministry is being a friend that prays and lives the Christian life with the students. His favorite moments are times when a student truly understands the Gospel.
“I first see it in their eyes and then their whole face lights up. When a student really gets the Gospel, their whole countenance changes. It makes a lasting impression and those moments make my job worth it,” said Teague.
As much as Teague loves his job, it has not been without challenges. “Working with youth can be hard, especially when you feel like they are not responding to what you are saying. The most difficult task for me is teaching in front of so many students,” said Teague.
Teague said that it has also been hard being in one place for so long. “I have so many relationships with people that I really care about, but often so little time. I struggle with the heaviness of having to say no when they come to town or when they want to hang out,” said Teague.
In his free time Teague enjoys running, hiking, playing games, and spending time with his three children and five grandchildren.
“I couldn’t do my job without the love and support of my family. My wife’s commitment to encouraging me and speaking God’s truth into my life has kept me motivated and helped me continue to do youth ministry,” said Teague.
Teague and his wife Shannon have been married almost 30 years. He attributes much of his ministry to her steady support and encouragement. Other influential figures in Teague’s life have been his mentor Frank Brock and the Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church staff.
“I love what I do,” said Teague. “It has given me the opportunity to develop lasting relationships with people who make me laugh, who love me despite my many failures, and most importantly who have walked in Christ with me.”