So my friend Mackenzie responded to my previous entry. She is a friend and classmate of mine, and so what might seem to others as perhaps a bit on the harsh side, she really just knows me pretty well and has worked side by side with me as co-chairs of our youth ministry committee back at The Mothership, and has recently discerned that she, herself, is not called to ordained ministry, so she is just asking some questions that she considered in her own discernment process (how's that for a run-on sentence?). And I can't deny that I haven't wrestled with these questions, in fact similar thoughts were rumbling around in my head not too long ago. So, I thought that I do my best to answer them.
Mackenzie says:You really want to dedicate the majority of your vocation to youth ministry and you say you want to be a pastor. I understand the desire. I've seen people want this and do it. I thought that was what I wanted for awhile too. However, is that really the role of a pastor? If you want to spend the majority of your time in a ministry with youth and young adults, this sounds like the position of a deacon rather than the focus of a pastor.I'm just saying, with all the blurrings between roles and pastors doing diaconal work and deacons doing presbyteriate work, it is a question worth considering.What is the function of a pastor? What is the function of a diaconal minister (deacon)? Are you really called to an amalgamation of both, or are you a pastor who support youth ministry or a deacon who wants to slip in some sacramental work on he side?
I do, indeed, feel a strong calling to youth ministry. From the beginning of when I started discerning a call to fulltime ministry, I knew that youth ministry would always play a prominent part in that. Even if I were an 80 year old visitation pastor.
I also feel called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. To be in and amongst this community of believers and to set the table for them so that they might experience the awesome grace of God, and to be the one to dab water on the head of a baby and to welcome them into this imperfect and tattered but grace filled family is exhilirating and humbling at the same time.
So is there a place for someone to do both? Do we really need to say, "Okay, you are in charge of communion and baptism. And you are in charge of the youth." Why can't that be the same person? I think there might even be a deep benefit for it to be the same person.
My good friend (and a great pastoral role model for me) Pastor P. summed it up pretty well in an e-mail I received from him, and rather than try to paraphrase and lose some of the value of what he told me, I will quote him:You ask a question that is close to my heart. The youth and children of our church are always so undervalued. We don't need a pastor for those kids... just one of those goofy youthworkers. I don't want to under-rate the amazing work that happens through the many youthworkers who are not Pastors. I was just at the Extravaganza (ELCA Youthworker convention) and it is a sign of the many faith-filled lay workers that for little or nothing, care deeply for the children and youth of the church. At the same time. We are a church of word and sacrament. The person that plays wiffleball with you on Sunday afternoon is the same person that presided at Holy Communion that morning. That person placed in your hands the greatest gift you will ever receive... the bread of life. The same person that jumps in the swimming pool with you is the same person that baptizes screaming children. On every retreat we have Holy Communion. The Sacraments weave themselves through each activity because they are at the center of my personal experience and "professional" calling.
So, to answer your question Mackenzie, yes I do believe I'm called to be a pastor and yes, I do believe that I am called to work with youth. I don't know what that will look like once I leave seminary, heck, I don't even know what state I'll end up in, but whether youth ministry is only a portion or a primary part of my call as pastor, it does not change the importance youth ministry holds in my calling to ministry.