I sat around a table with four other youth pastors the other night. All of us, now vaccinated, gathered on a patio, seeing each other for the first time in a year, to catch up. Turn by turn, we asked each other about our churches and ministries, and turn by turn, we all answered,
“Eh, it’s going… ok.”
These were people I had been in graduate school for youth ministry with, who I had at one point stayed up late into the night talking theology and ministry with, people who normally couldn’t wait to brag about new events or gush about specific kids. We were often people who had a fun and friendly competition with each other, letting one great idea spin up another. And yet, we all sat there, and the best we could do was say we had done in the last year of ministry was survived.
It can be really easy to feel like we aren’t good at ministry right now. Like we aren’t creative enough, energetic enough, open enough, careful enough. We should have texted more teenagers this week, we should have done more drop-off kits, we should have had more events, we should have, should have, should have.
As I sat around that table, with four people who I all considered to be talented, creative, competent, passionate youth pastors, it occurred to me that, in all seasons, but especially this one, youth ministry is just hard.
In a season of incredible stress, suffering, isolation, and trauma for young people, I know I can become overwhelmed by the feeling of not being enough. And I’m not. I’m a youth pastor, I have finite reach, finite control, finite capacity to pastor through unfixable tragedy after tragedy.
I’m not enough. I don’t have the magic bullet, secret formula, special gifting that will solve my community’s suffering, and neither do you. But what we do have is calling, and the Holy Spirit, and I would add one more thing: the honest community of each other.
The great gift of sitting around that table wasn’t that my youth pastor friends could offer me one idea or resource that would fix it all, but that I realized I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was. May we take this time, this season, to reject the toxic temptation to curate our responses around the question of ‘how is your ministry’ to what our bosses and youth parents want to hear, and stop competing with one another for pointless prizes, but to acknowledge the holy truth that we were called into ministry, even if we feel like we’re not super good at it right now, and so were all these other people.
May we embrace communities of honest belonging, like Women in Youth Ministry, as a place where we share from not only our abundance but our decided lack, and take comfort in the reality that ministry doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be good, and that God has called all of us, finite as we are into an infinite grace.
We are spinning back up the Women in Youth Ministry blog, and our hope is that we can create a space where the reality of that truth shines through, and where women who are engaged in the sacred work of leading teenagers, from full-time to volunteer, from big cities to small towns, can share where God is at work in their lives, ministries, and more, not from the other side of the struggle, but from right here in the middle of it alongside the rest of us.
Youth Pastor: you are not alone. You are not bad at ministry. You are finite. You are not expected to have it all figured out. You are called to serve your community. You do not have to do it all alone.
If you want to write from the trenches with us, reach out to me here on the blog or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to hang out with us, join the Women in Youth Ministry facebook community. You are loved, you are finite, you are not alone.