In 2017, I had finished my Masters of Divinity and was preaching, teaching, and leading things at my church on a path towards ordination in my denomination. Some personal crises hit and I stepped back from ministry work to heal, grow, and (hopefully) mature on a number of fronts.
After years of therapy and spiritual direction, a global pandemic, and a church merger (and getting married!), I am stepping back into some ministry work, albeit in a way I never expected: youth ministry.
After some discernment and consideration, I’m now the Interim Youth Director at my church.
When I was initially asked, I admit: it was out of left field. I had never seen myself as the “youth pastor” type, or at least the usual stereotype of the adult man-child with lingering frat boy partier energy, or middle-aged men cosplaying as such. (I know that’s incredibly unfair and not characteristic of the vast majority of youth leaders out there, but it is a type.)
More substantively, I am not the kind of person that has any interest in making Christian faith more palatable, less complicated, or easier. I love making its complexity more comprehensible, but not simplified or “easier”, as if that makes youth more likely to maintain their faith. In fact, I’ve seen the opposite. The less complex and flexible your faith, the more brittle, anxious, and fragile it becomes.
(You can probably already see where this is going.)
The longer I took this train of thought, I felt more and more excitement about cultivating this in youth, how important that mindset and ministry could be, and how well suited I actually was for it.
This solidified after spending more time with the youth themselves, who are astonishing. They are wrestling with ideas, dynamics, and depths of faith and questions I didn’t contemplate until college. I saw how much they could teach me, and how my way of holding faith could be of service to them.
And that was it. I took the job.
After talking with them, I decided to do a little youth group teaching series through Lent, Easter, and Pentecost, which I’ll post about here on the blog.
During Lent, we’re exploring roadblocks to Christian faith–from both inside and outside of Christianity itself–that make believing more difficult. And unlike when I was growing up, I’m not presenting these to minimize or “debunk” them, but to show how we can maybe hold on to faith even while these things are true.
Through Easter, we’ll talk about “reasons” for believing–but again, it’ll be different. When I was coming up, “apologetics” were obvious, simplistic, and supposedly clear reasons why any half-reasonable person would be a Christian, framed as zingers and gotchas against non-Christians. I often heard the line, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” (insert eye-roll emoji here).
Often, these arguments were dishonest, incomplete, or required naively ignoring other reasonable counterarguments. And they never really helped me quiet the voices of doubt as I got older. Instead, I have found that people stay in or leave the faith for intuitive reasons and by inductive reasoning more than deductive.
I will be offering “reasons” people can hold onto and turn to if they resonate. They are not objective “proofs” or “arguments”. Just things that can help you feel a little less crazy as a religious person if and when you need them.
Lastly, through Pentecost, we’ll talk about reinforcements for one’s faith. If you’ve decided to stay in Christianity, what things will help deepen and cultivate that. In other words, sacraments, liturgy, spiritual disciplines, etc.
I’m still just the interim (and part-time), though I have the chance to apply for the regular director position in the future. But I’m determined to make good use of my time with these youth, and doing so with integrity, depth, and humility.
Pray I do it well.
One thought on “Roadblocks & Reasons: A Life Update & New Series”
This is really exciting, dude. I would love it if our kids had a youth minister like you in their lives. I can’t wait to read about the series you’re starting. I’m sure it’ll be as good for my faith as it is for the youth at your church.
LikeLiked by 1 person