This year our theme is “The Life.” Today we explore that theme with…..
The Life of a Youth Minister
Originally from Chapel Hill, NC, Daniel Potter serves as the Minister of Youth at First Baptist Church in Columbus, GA. He earned his M. Div from the Wake Forest University School of Divinity and a BS in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When not doing youth ministry, Daniel enjoys good music, laughter, spending time with his wife Rachel, cheering on his beloved Tar Heels, and recording podcasts. You can listen to Daniel through the Youth Ministry Conversations podcast or as a contributor to “The Irreverent Reverends” produced by the Everyday Exiles podcast network.
Over the course of this year, youth ministers will share a story with you that begins with the words “The Life.” This is, after all, the theme for Youth Ministry Conversations in 2017. What if youth minister’s stories shared became more than a link you saved with the intent to read later? Don’t feel bad. I have over 70 articles saved in my “Pocket” – an app designed for digital content hoarders like myself (https://getpocket.com/). The truth is, amid busy professional and personal lives, it can be difficult to budget even the few minutes it takes to read a blog post. That’s where a new conversation comes in.
In the summer of 2015, I was introduced to the Serial podcast (https://serialpodcast.org/). You may be familiar with this mystery-thriller of the unresolved murder of a Baltimore teen brought to life by Sarah Koenig and This American Life through NPR. If not, it’s a riveting story with many loose ends that will captivate your mind, even when you aren’t listening to it. Fair warning: if you click the link above, prepare to be hooked.
One time, as a youth, I was riding with my youth minister who insisted on listening to NPR. After a few quips about how awful NPR must be, I was sucked into a story about a set of Amish youth – folks my age – that were given a chance to lead the lives of typical emerging adults and then given the choice to remain in their community or to head fully into this different, new world. I put off my obsession with the stories NPR shares until I was in divinity school at Wake Forest. It was there that I first had someone illuminate the power of stories and to reveal why I’d been so hooked in high school. For one of my classes, I read Herbert Anderson and Edward Foley’s work Mighty Stories, Dangerous Rituals: Weaving Together the Human and the Divine. The work describes how stories shape our lives and our understanding of the divine. They assert that stories are so very powerful writing, “Stories make claims on our minds and our hearts, often before we know why or how” (4). Throughout the book, the authors continue to describe the ways our lives are often shaped by a narrative thread, claiming that “we tell stories in order to live.” Mighty Stories, Dangerous Rituals, I believe, is a must read.
What does all this talk about stories – when our 2017 theme was “the Story” – have to do with the new YMC theme of “the Life”? I’m excited to announce that over the coming months YMC is launching a new initiative. It’s the tie that binds all of that introduction you skimmed together! I think the math is pretty simple: stories + “the life” = YMC Podcast! Given the power of stories, and the ways aural testimonies captivate us, it seems natural that YMC would have a means by which the stories behind youth ministries could be spoken. Adding this element to YMC provides you an opportunity to listen while driving, working, exercising, etc. and represents an important facet of youth ministry: providing opportunities for individuals to connect through their many learning styles. These are slightly uncharted waters for all of us, but here’s a glimpse of what you can expect.
Each month, YMC will publish a podcast in which a youth minister will share parts of their story. These conversations may be light or heavy, jovial or serious, sad or happy. They will reflect the reality of what youth ministers live throughout their time serving churches in that particular role. In February, we’ll begin by conversing with a youth minister whose been in their current call for less than a year. By December, we’ll dialogue with a career-long youth minister (>20 years!). The YMC podcast will bring to life the stories embedded in the blogs you’ve enjoyed through YMC to this point. And, I believe, it will provide sacred space for youth ministers to share and to be heard in describing their experiences in this mysterious and awesome calling to youth ministry.
I’m humbled by the opportunity to help lead YMC into these uncharted waters. What I didn’t mention before is that I’ve had the chance to stoke a new passion in my own life through contributing to a podcast called “The Irreverent Reverends” (http://everydayexiles.com/podcasts/irreverent-reverends/). So, I’m marrying my new passion for podcasting with my old passion for youth ministry. My hope is that the podcast will be moving, meaningful, and useful for each of you.
Anderson and Foley close their book describing how the process of coauthoring the work changed them and their relationship to one another. They write that after publishing the work, they “will feast in thanksgiving for the pain and privilege of having shared in this mighty story and dangerous ritual” (186). May it be so for our own dangerous, new ritual and the mighty stories shared within. Let us feast on the blessing that is life together.