George Clooney, Anderson Cooper (The Silver Fox), Steve Martin, Richard Gere and the list goes on… Ever since I was 23 years old, I have had some evidence of gray hair. I have always been grateful for a full head of hair (which I still have), I have just been sad to see the change in color. I was reminded again this week that gray hair is not always a bad thing.
Prov. 16:31 :: Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.
Though not nearly as painful, I would equate these to the stretch marks earned by pregnancy. Some of my gray hair comes from the natural and inevitable change that comes from aging. However, much of it has been gained by experiences, stress, and mistakes. I am left with a crown of glory to prove it. I have lived much in 19 years of youth ministry. I have made many mistakes and seen much to praise God. I have worked with students 5 times as long as I was in high school. My resume and my hair shows I have been around the block.
Why is this important?
A few weeks ago Jim Candy was talking about the shifting he is seeing in youth ministry. I linked it on Mark Oestreicher’s blog because that is where I read it and it also has all 10 in one place. It is a fascinating read if you care at all about students or where the church needs to be heading. In it, he said a few shocking statements. One was that youth positions will be more rare. I don’t fully agree, but I do think that the typical youth pastor/director needs to change significantly.
Another statement he made was to say that the youth pastors that stick around are going to be older. Over the past year I have been assessing whether I should stay in youth ministry. Have I hit my prime? Have I stayed longer than I needed? What I appreciated about Marco’s post is it affirms some of my stirrings. Though things are changing, there is still a place for me at the table. I will probably not be the first person down the slip and slide (however, I am not yet the last) but my days in youth ministry are not dimming. If anything I have just hit my stride and getting warmed up.
My life in the past 19 years have gotten me ready for a time just such as this. I now am able to speak with authority to parents who want to know how to raise their children because I am in the thick of it. I know what it means to have the love of a father because I am one. I understand where my leaders are at, because I have been 24, as broke as a joke, and wondering if God will ever bring the love of my life to me. I know what works because I have done it and don’t need to try it again.
According to analysis theory, it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert or elite performer, in any industry, science and art form. Assuming I worked 50 hours a week for the past 19 years it means I have 49,400 professional hours devoted to Youth Ministry. If I retire and move on from a ministry that I continue to love, I am taking away the experience, wisdom, and knowledge of almost FIVE experts. Now I know I am being a little pompous in my statements, and I know I am not equalivant to 5 experts (only 3!). IF God is still using me and I still LOVE what I do…why would I go any where else and why would I deviate from what God is calling me to do?
All that multiplied by the fact that I received a calling by God to be exactly where I am…just like missionaries, doctors, lawyers, and senior pastors did. I MUST stay here.
This isn’t to say I have reached perfection and don’t have more to learn…by no means. But as we further ourselves in this crazy profession of (youth) ministry we must affirm each other in our calling. We must remind each other that we are called by the same, Most High God that called Abraham and Moses. Our profession and calling is no more or less nobel than that of other professions. It is just mine.
Step out in boldness as we have been called. Make the hard decisions. Do the work to shape our ministry and culture as God sees fit. God has given you a very specific vision for YOUR ministry that no one else can implement. So don’t shy away from that. Don’t act like a Jr. Pastor. If anything, we are doing the hard work to make our Senior Pastor’s lives easier and save them from so many gray hairs.