Comforting Words for New Youth Ministers – Part 2
This series seeks to provide comfort and guidance for new youth ministers. The series includes narratives from youth ministers in their first year of ministry, perspectives from those who just have finished their first year, and advice from veteran youth ministers to rookies.
I’m about two months into my journey in youth ministry. I ended my fourth year in college thinking that I was headed back for one more semester this fall before graduation. As a person who likes a plan, I had a defined idea of what my path after college would look like and it did not include youth ministry. I always knew that I would enjoy working with youth as a volunteer, but I simply had a different plan for my life.
I was approached this summer about the opening here at Saint Luke’s. I was flattered but initially dismissed the idea because it wasn’t a part of my well laid plan, and I wasn’t sure that I fit some non-existent mold of what a youth minister should be. I think that God finally had enough of my headstrong, inflexible attitude about life. I found myself thinking about the opportunity here more and more. Finally, it became clear that this was something I was supposed to pursue. For the first time in my semi-adult life, I let go and did something totally unexpected. I told myself that if it wasn’t meant to be it wouldn’t happen. This took a little bit of the worry away and gave me the courage to pursue something outside of my comfort zone. Then, everything just fell into place.
That is not to say that the past two months have been easy. They have been quite the opposite. Trying to figure out what I am supposed to do and how I am supposed to do it has been especially challenging. Despite a lot of guidance and great advice, I think I have moments of sheer panic every day. There are always people to help me if I ask, but sometimes I don’t even know what questions I need to be asking. Just when I feel like I’ve started to get my basic planning routine down, something happens that changes it. A parent calls with something that needs immediate attention, or I spend hours doing something that I suddenly realize needs to be done. Sometimes I’ll work hard all day and then get to the end and realize that I haven’t done a single thing on my well mapped out to-do list.
Then you enter my youth into the equation. After all, the planning and endless emailing that I do all day would be pointless if it didn’t result in something that reaches the group of thirteen through eighteen year olds that walk into the youth rooms every Wednesday and Sunday. Building relationships with the kids in this youth group is easily the most exciting, rewarding, and challenging aspect of the job for me. After high school graduation, I never thought I would spend another day worried about whether or not a high school kid liked me. Now, I spend much of my energy planning events and programs in hopes that they will have the right balance of spiritual nourishment, intellectual challenge, and the kind of fun that keeps a fifteen year old coming back week after week.
I’m a person who can get really worked up. It is important that I find comfort and peace in all of this craziness. I find myself thinking more and more of Christ as the Good Shepherd. He has a plan and is taking the lead; all I have to do is follow. For me, this is easier said than done. But I think that might be the point. For someone who likes structure so much, it’s crazy that I feel most spiritually fed sitting silently in the presence of God. The most comforting thing that God does for me these days is simply being there all the time.
Parker Garrett is serving in her first year as the youth director at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, AL.