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.