Am I Your Youth Pastor? ☠️

I'm figuring out what works for me in ministry and what doesn't-- what I'm called to and what I'm not (at the moment). People are so quick to throw the "Under 35" crop of ministers into Children's or Youth ministry. They want us to be Youth Pastors sooooo bad. Let me tell y'all something: Youth ministry is a very specific calling, okay!

You got to know that it's where God is calling you because it's a very specific and intricate line of work. You are caring for the souls of 3-year olds on up. The wide age range is taxing and forces you to embrace a plethora of modes of explicating the theology of whatever place you're working in. It is not for the faint of heart and you will not be in worship service much (at many churches). You'll need to develop a spiritual life outside of Sunday mornings because the work is too demanding for you to actually be able to worship during that time.

I'm at a place on my (short) ministerial career where people are selling me "Children's Director" and "Youth Pastor" positions. I don't know exactly how I feel about this, but it's mostly a negative feeling. As a woman, being pingeonhold as a glorified Sunday school teacher frightens me. In some churches, this is exactly what you'll be doing--teaching Sunday school while your colleagues get to robe up and preach or serve communion or just...be in worship. That's no shade at all, but it's not for me, and I'm 6 credits away from a Master of Divinity degree that has cost me $35,000 thus far, 🤷🏾‍♀️so I need to be doing what I feel suits me and the communtity that I'm serving best.

For male identified people, this may not be an issue. But for someone who has seen powerful women in ministry get cornered into babysitting, disguised at "youth service" or "Godly Play," I'm a bit skeptical. Also, many churches are doing this thing where Sunday school happens during service, meaning the youth minister will not be in worship...like ever. I can't deal.

When I was growing up, Sunday school happened before service or in between services (when we moved to 2 services). Now, there's an expectation that kids should be taken out during service, which I fundamentally disagree with. I don't know who I'd be if I had not be allowed (or forced) to sit through every song, every litany, every sermon, or every communion, WITHOUT an iPad or iPhone to distract me. I learned so much by listening to Rev. Audry tell her stories during her sermons. I learned so much by tuning into whatever Pastor Webster was saying. And because I knew my mother would quiz me after, I made sure I paid extra close attention to the scripture, the theme, and the breakdown. This formed me as a youth and young adult, and I reflect on it now as a minister.

I digress. Youth ministry may not be for me. I'm fine with that. I have to be true to myself or I'll end up miserable. I sometimes feel guilty because it's a (part-time) job that I'm passing up. I really enjoy teaching Sunday school once in a while at the church that I'm interning at. I love middle school-aged kids. They are in my wheelhouse. I also really enjoy facilitating conversations among Young Adults (35 and under) and Seniors (60+). Theology on Tap has given me the opportunity to do just that. But don't give me the babies. They deserve someone who cares deeply and who can manage them.

As I wrestle with this calling and with the desire to become a Senior Pastor someday, I'm also mindful of how being pigeonholed can deter an individual who desires a certain level of freedom to not only reach their goals, but to lean fully into themselves. I'm afraid that youth ministry would suffucate me, leaving me dehydrated and starving--hungry for the parts of myself that'll get set aside because I'm nursing others.

It's a quandary. I'll continue to wrestle on this journey.

Peace✌🏾

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