“I’m just the youth pastor”
I’m sure you uttered this sentence, heard this sentence, or have thought this sentence. Early in my ministry someone walked into my office that I shared with a few other youth pastors and they asked “where can I find a pastor?”. When we offered that we were pastors, they shrugged us off and went on their way.
It hurt, it stung, and it started to add that language and idea that “I’m just the youth pastor”.
I’m sure you’ve read the articles, ‘Jesus was a youth pastor!’, ‘you’re leading the future of the church!’, on and on and on. These articles are great and I agree with them. Yet, there is still that feeling that “I’m just the youth pastor”. It happens slowly doesn’t it? It occurs when people ask “when will you become a real pastor?” or “Teenagers? God bless you I have no idea how you do it!” People make our calling seem like a burden, an entryway to something better, paying our dues, or worse, they act like we have the annoyance of loving teenagers.
You may not be called to youth ministry forever, and that’s okay. I hope and I pray we have senior pastors, missionaries, chaplains, and other ministry positions that understand youth ministry. Because HERE is what youth ministry is.
You fight to make sure teenagers are noticed and freeze during their soccer or football games just to cheer them on. You probably are exhausted from a Lock In, but you have a student who’s parent forgot to pick them up. You are told monumental wins when they find out where they’re going to college and you get told heartbreaking lows when their parents divorce. You have made calls to try and scholarship a kid for an event that changed their life. You spend hours pouring over a sermon only to change it moments later because you see mid-sermon the face of a student who needs to hear something that the Holy Spirit is pouring out of you.
You go to hospitals and may not get treated like other pastoral staff, but you go, and you sit, and you wait, and you pray. You provide care. You show up in school tragedies, family tragedies, and even tragedies over school dances or a first breakup. You are called, you care, and you will fight for every student.
Anyone who thinks otherwise, yourself included, has no idea that the vocation you have been called to, is by far one of the greatest blessings. You are trained, or are trying to be trained, in every aspect of ministry. You balance fun with care. You balance your time with rest. You balance the most exciting and thriving part of the Church in your ministry.
Know that God has called you for THIS moment. You know that there will be moments where you want to utter the word “just” before someone asks you about your job, your role, or a question regarding the church. Friend, you’re not “just” a youth pastor. You’re a youth pastor, you’re called, you care, and now we need to go fight for every student.