Tonight as I was driving home from what feels like my 1000th high school sporting event of the year, I had an amazing conversation with a student. We talked about how just one decision can change the course of your entire life, and how your changed life has the potential to change so many others.
It got me thinking to just what an absolutely crazy blessing it is that I am here, in Florida, doing youth ministry. It's something I ran from for so long, and ultimately God just got through to me. As she got out of the car, she said "I'm just so thankful...that you stayed." There was more in between there, but those words will always stick with me...because I stayed.
STAYING...it's hard sometimes! It's hard when your dream job opens up 1200 miles away and you don't know if you should jump on it or not. It's hard when your family has so much going on and you just want to be near them. It's hard when four out of five of your staff members leave in the same year and you shoulder so much responsibility. It's hard when you feel alone because you're the only single one...the youngest one...the only woman.
And so let's look at that last one for a second - three things that kind of go against the mold of the stereotypical youth pastor. Because the stereotypical youth pastor is a plaid-shirt wearing, video game playing, goatee sporting man with a super hot wife, right? That's what I thought, or at least that's how I feel when I read youth ministry articles and attend conferences.
But then I did a Google search, and I found these youth minister stereotypes listed...
The stereotypical youth pastor...
- has an unorganized office and car
- can't be apart from his iPhone
- is super competitive in sports
- has some hebrew/greek/fish/cross tattoo
- is a constant ten minutes late
- is terrible at responding to emails and voicemails
- never updates the youth page on the church website
- eats half his meals on the church budget (and most are fast food)
- has a frisbee in his trunk
My little research experiment caused me to do some serious self-evaluation. Today I had to empty the fast food wrappers out of my unorganized car before we could drive to staff lunch. And all the junk in the backseat had to move to the trunk, already filled with about every piece of sporting equipment invented. This quick clean caused me to be late, and as I drove I tried to catch up on emails and voicemails on my iPhone. I played tennis with a friend last night so that I can dominate a student when we play next week. And this morning I emailed our IT guy yet again, trying to remember my username and password for the church website. And then there's that star tattoo on my foot...
I realized that maybe I'm not as alone as I thought. Maybe I'm young and single and female, but I can still rock a plaid shirt and Toms like the best of them. I can't play Super Mario for the life of me, but I can work iMovie like no one's business. I don't have a goatee...and that's probably a good thing. And I definitely don't have a super hot wife...but maybe I'll be one someday.
Pretty much I AM the stereotypical youth pastor...and I'm okay with that. Because in addition to all the surface level things above, and more important than any of them, I share two things that are so much more important: a love and passion for the Lord, and a love and passion for students.
It's a love and passion I would have never known if not for that one decision six years ago. One decision that changed my life and as a result, so many more lives as well. I'm so thankful for each and every one of these struggle and stereotypes, blessings and joys. Student ministry is a crazy world...but it's my world, and I'm so glad to be a part of it.
And Kandace, I'm glad I stayed too :)