Seven years ago, Lexi Billingsley and Sean Wilcoxson were among the small group of students who comprised the first Student Ministry at Second Mile Church (now Redemption Gateway). They graduate from high school this month, making them the first two students to ever go all the way through Student Ministry at our church.
In light of this momentous occasion, we asked them to reflect on their experience, share some helpful thoughts to incoming students, and discuss what they’re taking with them into the next season of life.
1. What are a few of your best memories from the early days of Student Ministry?
LEXI: My favorite memory from early student ministries was very first summer camp I ever went on. We stayed at hostels in Big Bear, CA and I have some of the best memories from that trip. We were a fairly small group so everyone was a very close. The band We Are Leo played for us and stayed with us most of the time and bonding with them was awesome. I remember that was the camp I got saved and became close with Josh Watt and my two wonderful mentors, Heather & Nikelle.
SEAN: That’s hard! My best moments in the early years of youth group were getting to know my best friends Noah Lau and Asher Baldwin and eventually making many more strong friendships Junior and Senior year.
2. How have your student mentors and leaders helped your life and faith?
LEXI: My mentors have had a huge impact on my life and their dedication to me and all the girls is something I will always be so thankful for. They were always willing to talk us through any problem we were going through, cry with us when we needed to cry, and most of all pray for us every day. Above everything else they encouraged me in my faith. Every problem I brought to them, they turned me straight to the Bible. Thanks to their constant guidance and encouragement I am confident in my faith as a move onto the next phase of my life.
SEAN: My mentors have shaped the way I look at my faith how to apply it to my life. They taught me how to integrate the gospel into my friendships at work and school. They showed me what a true man of God is and how to grow the way God wants me to.
3. What funny or embarrassing stories come to mind when you think of the last 7 years of Student Ministry?
LEXI: The last 7 years of student ministry have created so many funny memories. I remember one time (mentor) Colby asked me to tell a joke and when I said the punch line he laughed and spit water all over my face. I also remember at one camp in California we went canoeing and everyone was throwing dead fish and seaweed in each other’s canoes and we eventually all just went swimming in the lake because we were soaking we and smelled like dead fish. There are endless memories I could share from youth group and they will always be remembered as some of the best times of my high school years.
SEAN: No comment!
(Maybe he meant to talk about this one?)
4. What advice would you give to an incoming 6th grader as they begin Student Ministry?
LEXI: Student ministry has impacted me in more ways than any other activity. My advice to you would be to make strong friendships with the people at church. Make friends not just with your small group but with everyone. These are the people that will be there for you will school is getting rough, they will always be willing to pray and talk with you when bad things happen, and they are the people that won’t ever give up on you no matter who does. Take every opportunity to go to camps, participate in discussions, and enjoy every moment. Enjoy it all because eventually these people will become like family, and having a family so big that are all supporting you in your walk with God is the best thing to have.
SEAN: My advice to incoming 6th graders would be to make as many relationships as possible while in Student Ministries and to be as welcoming as possible to new members. Bring them in and make them feel at home! Make this place somewhere that is safe, fun, and above all, gospel centered.
5. What’s next for you (college, work, etc)? What’s one significant lesson that you’re taking from Student Ministry into your next season?
LEXI: In the fall I will be attending the University of Arizona to study physiology and eventually, hopefully medical school. Student ministries taught me that it is important to have close friends who share your faith, that not everyone will agree with you but that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with them, that life isn’t always going to be easy just cause you have Jesus, and that I can’t rely on myself or people to solve the hard problems in life because that’s all up to Jesus. I’ve learned to listen to the mentored in your life when they say “don’t date that guy,” or “be careful if you do that,” or all the other little things teenagers don’t want to hear.
SEAN: As I go into college at Chandler Gilbert Community College and starting my own business, I will be taking many lessons with me. The lesson that sticks out is to stay thankful even in my hardest moments. To have an undying faith in God’s perfect plan for me, my family, and everyone around me. And most importantly — to passionately chase the goals God has placed in my life and trust him no matter where he takes me.
6. Anything else you want to say?
LEXI: A few final words: Josh Watt is the coolest, and most caring student ministries leader and I’m so thankful for everything he has done for me, for growing me in ways I never know I could grow, and for everything he does. I will miss you so much Josh, and I’m so thankful for everything you’ve done. I’m also thankful for Heather and Nikelle for being like big sisters to me. Always giving me advice putting up with my goofiness and putting so much time into helping me for the past 7 years. I will never forget my time in student ministries and it has shaped me into the person I am. Thank you to everyone and I will miss it all so much.
SEAN: I want to thank everyone who has poured out their time and effort into my life. Every person that has pointed me towards the gospel has shaped me into the person I am today. I am truly blessed that God gave me such amazing mentors and friends that taught me so much and equipped me to face the crazy world we live in. Thank you.