Our theme for 2018 is “The Life.” Today we explore that theme with….
The Life of a Multi-Ministry Associate
Lauren McDuffie is the Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church in Morehead, Kentucky. She graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee, and has also spent time serving as a hospital chaplain in North Carolina and Tennessee.
There is always something a little strange when I find myself talking about youth ministry because I am, strictly speaking, not a youth minister. Or at least, I’m not only a youth minister. My responsibilities do include the ministry our church provides for our youth…but it also includes our ministry for children, and I am also planning for and leading in worship every week, and I am also a part of our town’s ministerial association, and I am also beginning to work with college students and consider ways to develop our connections to nearby campus ministries…and the list goes on.
It is true that an increasing number of youth ministers aren’t “just” youth ministers. Which is not to say there is anything “just” about being a youth minister. Even for those of us for whom it is not our only responsibility, I imagine we all share a sense that the work we do with youth is profoundly important both for the students and for the church in their respective stages of life. This work is vital, and it is vital for the students who come through our churches that the ministers who care for them are called and committed to the unique work of ministering with teenagers.
It simply strikes me as important to point out that for a variety of reasons, a growing number of churches are calling ministers to serve in several of what were once considered separate ministry areas.
For the record, I love my job. I’m not seeking to complain, but to name something that is true – sometimes, this is overwhelming. There are frequently times when those of us whose roles entail multiple ministries feel as if one of those ministries is being neglected. When there are many different, varied, and important things on your plate, it’s easy to spend time completely focused on one thing and then turn around and realize that something else perhaps hasn’t received as much attention as you might have liked. Or, we feel as though we’re being pulled in so many different directions at once that we can’t possibly be effective.
Here’s the thing…I’m not here to offer a solution, because I don’t have one. I’m not sure there is one. When it comes right down to it, I’m pretty sure there’s not a simple formula that every single one us who serves as an associate responsible for multiple ministry areas can apply to make sure all the plates keep spinning exactly the way we want them to, though goodness knows I wish there was. Each one of us will find the unique ways to meet the shifting responses of our unique callings.
And more importantly, I think we just need to give ourselves permission to breathe. To take a step back every once in a while, and remember that taking a break to take care of ourselves on occasion doesn’t detract from our ministry, but enhances it.
And what I’m beginning to realize is, that’s exactly what our youth need from us. Think pieces about the overscheduled lives of American teenagers can be found in every corner of the internet, and to see the evidence most of us don’t have to look much further than the teenagers that fill our youth ministries. It’s almost ironic that as we’re struggling to feel that we’re meeting all the responsibilities of our multi-ministry roles, the youth we’re afraid we’re failing actually need the exact same thing we do: space to slow down. It might be that if we created that kind of environment for our youth in the ministry we provide for them, we might find ourselves benefitting as well.
What would it look like for youth group to be a place where teenagers get to simply breathe? Where sharing what’s going on in their lives, and reflecting on where they see God in those lives, takes precedence over the constant “going” and “doing” that governs so much of our time? I’m not saying that a good old-fashioned game of Sardines doesn’t still have its place. But given that one of the questions many of us are asking these days is, how can the youth programs our churches provide compete with everything else on our teenagers’ calendars, maybe this is the answer. Not to compete at all, but to be the space that helps our youth to feel more prepared and able to handle everything else on those calendars. We know that we need that space as ministers…our youth certainly need that space too.
And so, perhaps we and our youth can learn and grow together…and give ourselves a break.