On a fall Sunday morning a year ago, much like yesterday, I was announced as the Youth Pastor of New Life Community Church in Manchester, NH. There are a lot of funny things that surround that announcement but nonetheless I was from that moment on the youth pastor. And that terrified me. That still terrifies me. I haven’t taken any classes on being a youth pastor because I never wanted to be one. I’m not sure exactly why except I knew that being a youth pastor wasn’t my end all. I felt a different calling on my life for the long term and I never wanted my youth, which is how I thought even when I said I wouldn’t be a youth pastor, to feel as though I used them to “climb a ladder…”
Yet when it as announced it resonated within me.
I wasn’t a youth pastor like any that I had ever met. I mean, I don’t like risk, I’m super administrative, I dress up…all the time and everything I am isn’t defined by that one title. Instead I am a pastor whose calling is for this moment specifically for youth. My youth and your youth. The youth in my church and the youth in other churches. I once wrote about my unlikely flock. Well that hasn’t stopped. My flock is still very unlikely because it isn’t always who you would expect. You see my calling goes beyond just who is in front of me to those who the Lord lays upon my heart. And it doesn’t always have to do with age. I’m a pastor to others whose only claim to youth is the age they feel in their heart. And that’s okay. I am a youth pastor be that in age, behavior or heart. Whatever youth means I’m called to pastor those who encompass it.
Over the past year I’ve gone through and experience a lot. Most of which I never expected. There were many conversations that I had with the Lord that went something like this, “That’s it. I’m done. I didn’t know ministry would be like this. They don’t even want it. What if they don’t like it….” Blah blah blah. Whine, whine, whine. And do you know what God said back to me, “So what, just do it.” Never once did God say, “You’re right, it’s not what you expected so you can give up.” Nope. But He never once left me on my own. The very opposite at every turn I was blessed time and time again to recognize the safety harness that He had placed me in. My Mon-Fri job is in the Northeast District of Foursquare Churches. I’m surrounded by pastors who pastor pastors. How awesome is that? On any given day you can hear someone in the office talking with someone about something they are going through and the call isn’t done until they have prayed with the person at the other end. As I have struggled through conflict, differences of opinions and the tightrope of leading there have been people walking alongside me. Giving advice when asked, asking questions to help guide me and always willing to hug me and squeeze me when I didn’t think I would make it out. And thankfully I always made it through to the other side.
Well here are a couple of things, besides what I already shared, that I learned this past year:
There is a fine line between understanding your youth and becoming a youth. At moments the line will be blurry. Like sitting in Barnes and Nobles during journaling and asking questions like a teenage girl. That’s okay because let’s be honest at 23 years old, you aren’t that far removed from being one of them. But there are moments when your personal life must stay personal. Your relationships, the struggle and the victories shouldn’t be weighing on their shoulders. My past, the good, the bad and the ugly, shouldn’t be lied about but I don’t have to hang out in front for all to see. It takes seeking God’s wisdom to know the difference between understanding your youth and allowing yourself to become a youth.
Your effectiveness doesn’t count on them liking you. Sometimes your youth won’t like you. As a pastor, whether of kids, youth or adults, you will make decisions and call someone on things that they don’t like. And in turn they won’t like you. Or at least for that moment, in that situation they say and feel as though they don’t like you. It’s not personal, it feels personal, but it’s not. You have to remember that just as you have emotions that both hurt and bring triumph, so do they and it is out of these emotions and brokenness that they often speak. Give them grace, love them anyways and always give it up to God. Please don’t carry what isn’t yours to carry. And know that in the end… they might not like you but they sure do love you.
Most of the time things won’t go as planned. We have a picture in our mind and when all is said and done the picture in our head and the sight before us aren’t 100% the same. Let go. Often we see in part. And sometimes what we imagine in our minds isn’t something that can happen where we or they are at. Trust that if you were faithful to listen, follow and trust God that He knows exactly what is up. Often we give face to an expectation that doesn’t match what God’s intention ever was. Don’t get so blinded looking for the face you have made up that you miss the vision God intended you to grab.
Don’t try to please. I was going to say not to try and please everyone but the truth is that it’s not my job to please. Period. End of discussion. My job is to: seek God, delve into His word, share Him and His word and then bring people along to seek God with me. God will instruct on His will and His way. Trust that He knows you, your sheep and all the circumstances. Down the road you will see that by not pleasing but being true to who you are and what God has spoken to you, you will see what an impact of legacy of God’s light you are being.
There is so much more that I have learned that haven’t even made it onto blog posts but for now I’ll leave you with this.
A little over a year ago I moved across the country to a job that I wasn’t sure I could do with a paper that said I could possibly be a pastor, all because God said to, “go.” I can’t even believe the crazy journey that started with an honest prayer and a simple email. Sometimes we know our plan and have the path marked out well in advance and sometimes God says “go,” and “trust,” and “come along” and the journey is better than you ever could have expected. Get out on the journey that God has for you and enjoy every single second!!