Today I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and stumbled on a post on Church Leaders.com entitled "5 Myths About Youth Pastors" that a friend of mine had shared. It is written by Josh Evans and Josh does a great job identifying 5 'common' myths about youth pastors. You can find the original post here. He also addresses them, I just wish he had gone more in-depth in his debunking of the myths. I know blog posts like this are supposed to be short to hold the attention of the reader and the entire time I was reading the passage I was thinking "Yeah brother! Preach on!" but I will say by the end I was left wanting more. So I thought I would post my thoughts on the same myths.
#1: Youth Pastors are on vacation when at camp and mission trips.
I have been told this statement by the boss of my marketplace job when I was a bi-vocational youth pastor. Let me let everyone in on a secret. Do I have fun when I go to camp? YES! But am I working the entire time I am there? Yes. I am ultimately responsible for the safety and well being of 33 individuals while at camp this year. Students and volunteers alike. I have to make sure the camp knows of my kids food allergies. I have to make sure they are where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there, which if you've ever worked with teens is like herding cats. It's fun but it is the most exhausting thing you can ever do during the summer. And to the volunteers and bi-vocational youth workers and adults. KUDOS! You are sacrificing your 'real' vacation time during the summer to come and chaperone kids and bring them closer to Christ. You are the real rock stars!
#2: Youth pastors are lazy.
.....Hmmm. Guilty. I am lazy. No arguing that. But because I know that my default setting is lazy I do a lot to help compensate for that. There is a 'job' side to youth ministry. Making sure deadlines are met, making sure parents are notified and informed, making sure budgets are balanced. And I fail OFTEN at this. But because I know this parts is something I have to work on, I work on it. I won't address the nights and weekends I've given up for youth ministry stuff because honestly all ministers do this, our job doesn't have a 9-5 punch in clock like most people and that's ok. That is part of it.
#3: Youth pastors are not smart.
.....Hmmm. Guilty again! No seriously. I take offense to that statement. Academically speaking, since I have returned to college for a degree in ministry, I have never failed to make either the dean's or president's list. If you are speaking of theological knowledge I can stand toe to toe and debate theological issues with any senior pastor I know. If you are referring to knowledge of my craft, youth ministry, I am constantly reading books and magazines on the subject. At least once if not twice a year I attend national recognized conferences on the subject to broaden my knowledge. If you are referring to common education I can add two plus two, although my daughter's common core math assignments still confuse me. Seriously, just because I work with teens does not mean I am not smart no more than a teacher who works with those same teens at their school.
#4: All youth pastors do is play games.
Is there a fun element to youth ministry? Yes, as well there should be. Church doesn't have to be stuffy and boring. Yes as a youth pastor I get to have fun with teenagers. But there are also tough times that youth ministers face too. There is dealing with that one church member who just seems to have it out for you. There is having to preach at the funeral of a student who committed suicide. There is counseling a teenage girl who messed up and is pregnant now. There is being there for that one student who wants to be anywhere other than home. There are the days when you want to throw in the towel because of how much time you've been away from your family and how stressful it has been and how close to being burned out you are. With all the fun and all the rowdiness that comes with youth ministry it also comes with burdens that no one person should bear. If you know a youth minister, make their day by asking "Hey I know ministry can be rough, how can I pray for you?" And keep what they tell you confidential and pray for them.
#5: Youth ministry is not a real job.
This one is a myth I cannot debunk. Youth ministry is not a job. It feels that way sometimes, but it's really not. Youth ministry is a calling. You have to know you are wading into the belly of the beast every day. You are going hand to hand and toe to toe with the devil and the world for just an ounce of godly influence in these teens lives. Luckily you have the ultimate ally in Jesus Christ on your side and He is there telling you "I've got your back and the battle is won." Youth ministry is something, I believe, God calls you into. It's not something that you just wake up one morning and think "I want to work with kids." If that's the case please find a secular job working with kids. God needs the warriors, the ones that He has called by name, to take up this fight for our youth. I believe some of the 'myths' floating around about youth ministers may sometimes come from people who were doing youth ministry but were not called by God to be youth ministers.
Answering God's call into this wild journey of youth ministry has been the best decision I have ever made in my life. If your reading this as a youth minister, stick it out! God has great plans for you! If you are reading this and are not a youth minister, find the youth minister of your church. Thank him or her for what they do. Youth ministry is an awesome calling but it is also the most thankless thing you can do in your entire life. Your work will be noticed but you will often never hear about it. Your failures will be broadcast through the gossip channels. There will be those that want to see you fail and you won't know if you made any difference until you are standing before Jesus and He says "Well done good and faithful servant." But that is what I live for. How about you?