Young, Single, and in Youth Ministry
I accepted my first youth ministry position at the tender age of twenty, and I joked that I didn’t know why I was entrusted with the life of teenagers. And to be honest, many parents felt the same way. Five years later I’m still young, single, and without children . . . and I love it! My singleness is a gift, because I’m better able to focus on building ministry and community.
But if we’re being honest, many others don’t view my singleness as a gift.
In fact, some people think that because I don’t have children I don’t know how to advise others on how to raise their children. That’s fair—I get it. After all, I would want an athlete—not a competitive eater—to be my physical trainer.
It’s evident that when God places people like me in these positions, he does it for a reason. So how does someone who is young, single, and without children effectively communicate with parents? I have two important pieces of advice:
A person can read every book on the shelf and attend every parenting class offered, but it doesn’t make them an expert on parenting. In fact, the ones who are experts in parenting will be the first to admit they’re taking parenting one day at a time.
Admit that you’re taking youth ministry one day at a time, and take time to learn from the parents in your community: become part of their lives, and learn what parenting looks like in their context. This will help you communicate more effectively, because you will have seen what their lives look like and can knowledgably speak into their situation.
One of the most humbling times of my life was the three years I worked in a group home with at-risk youth—my experiences with these youth helped define who I am as a minister. Much of what I learned overlaps with what a parent will experience with their children. I can advise parents on natural consequences, because I practiced them. I know how exhausting it is to balance the schedules of teenagers, because I was overwhelmed when I had to do it. Investigate opportunities like these where you will have to humble yourself and walk in a parent’s shoes—it’s a huge commitment, and it’s some of the rawest ministry you’ll ever do, but in the end you’ll understand and appreciate parents more.
Just as humility is needed, so is confidence.
In my premarital counseling class in college, my professor told us that couples who had Catholic priests as their premarital counselors had the highest marital success rates. This blew my mind! How could a single, celibate dude prepare couples for marriage?
God equips the unlikely to carry out his work. It’s never been about me or my knowledge—and I need to be reminded of this regularly. Every time I have a parent meeting, I pray that God can give me his wisdom to speak truth into the lives of the families I’m serving.
When people negatively respond to you because of your age, marital status, or childlessness, don’t listen to their voices saying you’re not good enough . . . because, you know what? No one is. It’s God who does the work through the people he chooses. Be confident that he has placed you exactly where he wants you.
My suggestion is that you never focus on your singleness as one of your defining characteristics. I’ve found that if I don’t talk or joke about my age or the fact I’m unmarried, then others don’t think about it. Act in wisdom, and let this speak louder than anything else about you.
Remain confident that you were created in God’s image as a mother and a father, and then you can channel that likeness without having biological children of your own.
HEATHER is a Junior High Director in Indianapolis, working with a talented and diverse team of staff and volunteers. Heather has the privilege of writing on various youth ministry platforms across the interwebs, but you can find her blogging about her life in ministry over at HEATHERLEACAMPBELL.ME.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.