Summer is here and the living is……busy! For youth ministers summer is a very busy time of year. In the hectic running around of doing ministry to teenagers in the summer, we must remember sometimes why we love what we get to do for a living. Enjoy three great answers to the question……
“What do you love about your job?”
Chris Cherry is an ordained minister who received his Masters of Divinity from McAfee School of Theology. He enjoys foosball and skittles, but doesn’t particularly care for static electricity. He is currently serving as Minister to Students at St Andrews Baptist Church in Columbia, SC.
It’s true. I’m not the shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals. I’m not an astronaut who gets to walk on the moon. I’m not paid to dream by companies like Google, Apple, or Twitter. I am, however, the Minister of Students to some pretty incredible youth and college students.
“Hi. I’m Chris, and I love my job.”
Typically, I don’t like making long lists in posts, but for this, I’m going to make an exception. Below, are 12 reasons (in no particular order) why I love my job and think you should, too:
1. I have a Batman mask in my office. Along with a Chipper Jones bobblehead, a charcoal drawing of The Beatles, a wiffleball bat, a wood carving of a Jewish rabbi, a mini fridge, a Nerf gun, Christmas wrapping paper, several vinyl records, and glow sticks.
2. While I do spend time at my desk, it is also my job to color with crayons, throw frisbees, play messy games, go to camp, read good books, buy new music, and have lunch outings.
3. I get to see God work in the lives of youth and college students firsthand—there’s not much in this world that’s better than witnessing an Ah-Ha moment from God.
4. Learning is never finished. I read a wide variety of books from popular novels to theological tomes, while at the same time I receive an education from the students with which I am journeying.
5. My office has a great view of the Chick-Fil-A directly across the street. Be jealous.
6. Not only do I get to plan games, I also get to play them!
7. Doing ridiculous, embarrassing things is par for the course in student ministry—which is a great cover for my natural awkwardness.
8. I get to work with a great group of volunteers who make my job easier, are incredible partners in ministry, and always teach me something new.
9. Ranting and raving about theological and justice issues actually brings out a few smiles here and there from time to time maybe… ok, maybe not.
10. I have a natural excuse to consume massive amounts of junk food.
11. I don’t have to pretend to be perfect in front of the students. For whatever reason, they like it when I admit my mistakes.
12. Bounce houses. Amusement Parks. Duck, Duck, Goose. Sharpies. White Water Rafting. Movie Night. Camp. Kickball. And thoughtful, rich, honest Bible studies where each person is invited to be real, ask their questions, and is loved.
Andy Farmer is Minister to Students at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. He is drawn toward those enduring growing pains and desiring light-heartedness. He and his wife Emily have one son, Jonah, born in April.
What if your vocation is to contemplate vocation?
I do not typically allow myself gushing language for fear of, God forbid, revealing too much of myself, but if I had to use the word “love,” I don’t think it’s overstating to say I love to ask about God’s call. I consider it my joy to ask, in so many ways and at opportune times, “What is God calling you to?”
This is undoubtedly linked to my own relentless interest in asking myself the same question. I don’t know if it’s the rule-following oldest child in me or something a little less pop psychology, but I just really want to know what I’m supposed to do. Admittedly, this is primarily so that when I do what I’m “supposed” to do, so-and-so might be proud, pleased, impressed. Going off script is something I’m less comfortable with – that is, unless going off script is what I’m supposed to do. Then it’s just awesome.
For many youth, the best “vocation” conversations may happen when someone gives them permission to go off script for God. For those living in our area, this would look something like saying “Screw the family business. I’m going to serve the poor.” Or, “It’s okay to not be #1 at everything. Or anything. You are not what you do.” Or even, “Wow, I think my ‘privileges’ are actually disadvantages. I’m exhausted from keeping up such a shallow life.” If you’re in the suburbs, too, you probably know as well as I do that any of these statements seems fairly out of range for many of the adults, much less youth, in our churches. But I’m a Christian and have hope.
It’s the Christian concept of vocation that gives an Eeyore like me a positive outlook. If God can call Moses and Mary, Peter and Paul, Jeremiah and Jonah, for crying out loud, then it might be that I’m next. And that’s probably what’s love/hate about this particular love. For “religious professionals,” there’s a tendency to confuse “vocation” and “job.” I used to like to say something like “everyone is called to full-time ministry, no matter what their job is. For some, like me, it’s the same thing – the vocation and the job.” But I’m veering away from that now, kind of like Barbara Brown Taylor does:
“In a world where the paid work that people do does not always feed their hearts, it seems important to leave open the possibility that our vocations may turn out to be the things we do for free (An Altar in the World).”
As counterintuitive as it sounds, I think this is true even for ministers. The event planning and salesmanship required to run programs and to get people to buy in hardly come close to feeding my heart, as far as I can tell. On most days, I’m conflicted about whether or not the time I spend away from my wife and son – for the sake of “ministry” – is really faithful living. When it’s hard to see that my flailing around trying to do “what I’m supposed to do” in youth ministry makes any difference against the principles and powers of the comfortable, first-world existence, I get downright whiny.
Every now and then, though, I witness a kid or a parent not too far gone, and I remember that that’s how God always sees us – not too far gone. I love being a student of God, or at least I wish I did, and I love seeing others be open to the same thing, even if it’s only for a split second. That’s why I do my job: just in case there’s a chance today to re-connect with my vocation.
Gloria Shearer is from Winchester KY but currently lives and works in San Cristobal, Guatemala as a missionary. She is the team leader of Big Student Ministries Guatemala which is a part of Journey Church Guatemala. Their community is a beautiful melting pot for North American missionary youth, Guatemalan youth and Korean youth. Live BIG!
I am blessed enough to not only be an independent missionary but I am an international youth leader. I could tell you that what I love about my job is that I get to hike a volcano on a trip, or that we swim in pools heated by the volcano, or that the black sand beaches are two hours away, or that in our back yard we can serve in hundreds of missions that are using the gifting that God has given them to help stop poverty in this country. All of these things are a very cool part of what I get to be a part of but the part that I truly love is being a part of a tricultural community.
In our youth group we have US missionary, Guatemalan, and Korean kids. God sure threw me a curve ball when he called me to Guatemala but I didn’t know he still had a change up coming when I met my first Korean student. Apparently business is a major draw for our Korean families. The lesson that I have learned through this experience is that a teenage is teenager no matter where they are born. They really only want a few things from us…
1) They want the truth
2)They want to be heard
3) They want to know that you really love them.
I love the fact that God has used my testimony to reach a group of students that had been forgotten or left out because they thought all Christians were fake and perfect. I love that I have been asked to be a part of their lives and not just as a spiritual mentor but as a friend and a big sister in many cases. Reaching a missionary community has been such a crazy cool adventure because they know all the right answers and there is not a story from the Bible that they haven’t heard but they are crying out to know that their questions and opinions matter.
The down side to mission work is that sometimes kids take the back seat to the ministry and I love that God has placed me in San Cristobal Guatemala to give these kids a place where there questions and doubts are heard and are given a space to cultivate an answer based on what the Bible says and not just on what they have heard or been told their entire life.
So the simple answer is the part I love most about my job is that we aren’t as different as we think we are.