I’m sure that I’ve said it before but I have a real frustration with people who think that youth pastors aren’t real pastors. Well, that’s not totally true. I don’t necessarily have a frustration with the people themselves, usually, but more with the whole idea that working with youth is in some way a stepping stone to becoming a real pastor. Which all of this is kind of odd considering that my job progression was actually: youth pastor-seminary-lead pastor. When I left Buhler Mennonite to go back to seminary I can’t tell you how many people said to me, “oh, so you’re going back to school to become a real pastor.” Most of the time I resisted the urge to cuss them out and walk away. The reason that that comment is so infuriating is that it completely belittled everything I had been doing or working for in the previous 4 years. To be even more specific, it completely undermined the respect that I thought I had from those people for what my chosen profession was. My resistance to this idea is even so strong that it held me back, for a while, from truly considering the job that I’m currently in. I love working with youth and went to school to be a youth pastor. Fortunately I get to continue to be heavily involved with the youth here at PVMC.
Nevertheless, the attitudes need to change within the church in order for youth pastors to get the credit they deserve. We need to shift our understanding of what we’re doing with high school youth from “playing games, hanging out and sprinkling in some Jesus” to “intentional spiritual formation of teenagers”. Those are radically different ways to approach youth ministry. The other sentiment that needs to change is that hip young adults are the only ones that are able to “connect” with youth. Which really translates to; hip young adults are the only ones who are still physically fit enough to play tag and other group games with the kids. This sentiment demeans both the youth and the adults charged with leading them. Age has very little to do with being a capable spiritual guide for youth. Youth pastor, and lead pastor take different personality types to really flourish. I know 55 year old youth pastors who are fantastic at what they do but would never want to be a lead pastor. I also know fresh, 26 year old, seminary grads who are the best lead pastors I’ve ever met.
So that’s my rant. Be kind to a youth pastor..they need it.
If you want to read the article that sparked this rant here it is. You’ll know why I was a little perturbed.