Being Young, Looking Younger.

This week’s Friends Only Friday Post comes from my long time best friend Allyssa Smithers. As of July 1, she’s begun leading in her first appointed ministry setting. In this post she reflects on something that many of us, as single, young adult, women in ministry, have struggled with as a part of our journey to and within ministry leadership — being young. 

Love and Peace…

I recently became the only pastor at two very small rural congregations. I might not have to mention that a very large majority of my congregations are much older than I am. This past Sunday, a very loving and kind-hearted parishioner said to me, “Thanks kiddo!” I accepted it with a smile and continued greeting the rest of the congregation as I was leaving the church. This statement, “thanks kiddo,” has stayed with me all week as I continue to think about people’s perception of me as a pastor who is a young person.

The call to lead a church is more than I ever imagined it to be. All week, I have been at a week-long INTENSE school for people who wish to be licensed as a pastor. These people are desiring to be in part-time or full-time ministry in the United Methodist Church to preside during communion, administer baptisms and officiate marriages, among other things like church administration, preaching, evangelism, and everything else that comes with leading a church.

I have learned so much about what being a pastor means. I have felt the weight of what God has called me to do and how God has called me to lead. BUT, even here I have still gotten that question: How old are you?  or How old are you? or How old are you? or How old are you?  Did you catch the inflection in each of those questions? Did you hear the absolute shock or confusion or horror in each of those questions? Well, if you are anywhere close to as young as I am and you are leading and living in ministry, you have heard any combination of those multiple times.

But how do I, with respect for those older than me, still exhibit the authority God has given me to proclaim God’s word or to be in ministry with others? I am a child of God. You are a child of God. If we both take our relationship with Jesus seriously, we have both picked up our cross everyday and we both are being a part of the transformation of the world for Jesus Christ, does it matter how old we are, or aren’t? Does it matter how old, or young, we look?

I used to think it didn’t matter.

The most famous verse in my youth group growing up was 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” Stereotypical “youth” verse, right?

But now, I’m starting to wonder. Is my age really a point of distraction for people? Can they hear my sermon or are they just thinking how cute it is that I’m a young pastor? Can they look at me and not think of their precious little granddaughter? Maybe not, but as I think about Timothy, and other people in scripture who were young, Samuel, David, Jesus’ mother Mary, most of the disciples, I remind myself that Paul told Timothy that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” God has given us, even young-looking females the Spirit of Power.

If I am disciplined and loving, God will use me to lead God’s people and transform the world.

It’s definitely easier said than done as I will continue to push on through these distracting and sometimes demeaning comments, but I know that God has called me now, for such a time as this. I will not wait until I am older. I will not wait until others think I am ready. God has called me NOW.

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3 thoughts on “Being Young, Looking Younger.

  1. “But how do I, with respect for those older than me, still exhibit the authority God has given me to proclaim God’s word or to be in ministry with others?”

    You earn it over time. Just like the rest of us.

    Allyssa, this is a great post with great thoughts. I just love your heart and your passion. Maybe one day you will be my pastor. Or DS.

    From someone who was once younger and is now… um…er… a bit more seasoned…. I think you will come to understand (over time) that being young will be more of an advantage than a disadvantage. When you have earned the right to be heard, people will listen… no matter what your age. But that usually takes some time.

    Also, being younger allows you to make mistakes that, quite honestly, you WILL make a lot when you start out in ministry. Yeah, sometimes it feels condescending, but sometimes it feels like grace. I want to repent to my first congregation every time I read my earlier sermons. Even worse, I think of some of the leadership moves I made when I was starting out that seemed so “godly” at the time, but were actually just unwise. Hindsight is a great teacher.

    I love your passion that you are ready to lead and won’t wait until your are older. Great. The Church… the world… needs your voice. (Heck, I need your voice in my life.) But where I think you know my well enough to know I’m not a “You-young-wipper-snappers-need-to pay-your-dues!” kind of guy — there is something about time that builds wisdom. I think of wisdom as Obedience + Time. I know a lot of older people who have a lot of years, but weren’t obedient in those years, so they lack maturity. I know a lot of younger people (including you) who have a contagious faith…. they have the obedience piece… now they just need obedience over time. These years form the habits and experience you need to be really effective in your 30s-40s.

    Allyssa, lead well. Lead strong. Lead humbly. Make mistakes. Own up to them. People will follow you. People will listen to you. I know I will.

  2. Allyssa, over the years I have been in ministry with almost all of your immediate family and I am honored to be in ministry with you now as a colleague and fellow pastor.

    When I was in full time youth ministry one of the things people used to say was, “the youth are the church of the future.”. In one way this is true, yet it also implies that these youth have nothing to offer right now, they will offer something when they grow up, have kids, have a job and are able to give, and have some wisdom. This has always seemed wrong to me. The same is done with young pastors, “they are our future” we here as if we have nothing to offer right now. I was even told by a Senior Pastor that I would do nothing significant for ten years. What a horrible thing to say…as if the youth ministry and mission and ministries that I was doing was insignificant. As if the next several years after that as I lead a midsized church in Columbus was insignificant. Not true. It is not true for you either. Lead, grow, develop, make mistakes, try something else, be bold, and know that you are doing amazing things to change the world for Jesus Christ for you are our church right now, you have wisdom to offer us right now, you are the light that leads us to Christ right now.

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