SO how do female youth workers relate to the guys?
The question always gets asked, and I've been asked this at least 3 times in the past few weeks...
"How do you relate to the guys in the youth group?"Brooklyn Lindsey, posted some great thoughts on her blog, so make sure to check it out. I've been thinking about this for awhile (umm a couple of decades really), so here is my response:
Walking with my husband through the vendor exhibit hall at several youth ministry conferences over the years, I've found one thing to be true, everyone thinks my husband is the youth pastor. They look him in the eye and try and get him to sign up for their youth mission trips, or summer camps. He grins and looks at me, as he playfully introduces himself as "the pastors wife." I then step up, grab the brochure, free tootsie roll pop, and lay claim to yet another over-sized free T-Shirt. I have about 50 free youth min T-Shirts, that only fit my husband. Apparently only large men do youth ministry.
When I was 15, my high school friend Lissa, invited me to her youth group. That's where I met Barbara, the first female youth worker I've ever met. She ran a large and dynamic youth ministry at a large Catholic church in town. She wasn't young. She wasn't trendy. She was a mom and had her own kids who were our age. There at Holy Trinity in Southern California, I could see Barbara was loved by students. She was respected, and had one heck of a fun youth group. At 15, I know it was Barbara whom God used to first plant the seed in my heart, that yes girls can be youth workers. It was a possible and realistic career choice. In the years following, ministry became an undeniable calling.
Women in youth ministry are no stranger to the assumption many people have that all youth workers are men. I grew up in a small youth ministry led by guys. I can't even really remember any females helping out too often. If they did, the single guy youth workers and male volunteers kept hitting on them and scared them away. We did have a youth pastor come in during my junior year in high school who was married, and I liked his wife a lot. She helped out occasionally, but not too often. What's spectacular to me is even though I grew up in a very male led youth ministry, my dream to go into youth ministry was never questioned or discouraged. My youth pastor, along with my Campus Life director, and church staff, all gave me opportunities to spread my wings as a student leader. They all provided support and direction for the pursuit of God's call on my life.
So when asked, how do I reach guys and relate to them as a female in youth ministry, I have a few candid answers:
1) First, I relate to guys in youth ministry, the same way male youth pastors still happen to relate to girls.
I wasn't hindered or harmed by having male youth pastors. It made no difference to me. Truth is truth and God's word is powerful. It doesn't matter if it's a girl or a guy preaching it. God's Word and the Holy Spirit speak into the lives of students, regardless of a youth worker's gender. It's important to hire someone who is skilled, called, and capable of reaching teens. Gender is irrelevant. And why doesn't anyone ask the same question if a GUY is preaching every weekend to females? No one seems concerned about how he relates to girls!
2) As a paid youth worker, I have always believed in team ministry.
I may not have had the benefit of female youth workers or female youth volunteers during my youth group days as a teenager, but I certainly believe in a team ministry approach. I make sure to have both male and female staff on our youth teams. Both old and young, both married and single, both trendy and nerdy. Both parents of teens, and newlyweds without kids. Students need a variety of adults invested in their life. It's not up to one gender or one ultra cool and hipster youth leader. Variety is essential. No one person relates to every kid anyways.
3) It's the married couples w/kids who have impacted my life the most.
First, my own parents who are still married and love Jesus, and secondly, married youth workers. It was babysitting for Deron, my Campus Life director and his wife Annette, which allowed me to experience youth ministry through the context of family. Going on youth ministry trips with them to babysit their kids gave me a glimpse into what I wanted my future to look like. It made a life long impression on me, giving me a yearning to one day be that kind of a family. A family welcoming teenagers into the everyday rhythm of family life in a ministry home. I saw them parent. I saw them do youth ministry. I saw them go through loss (Annette lost both of her parents within months of each other). I was able to eat at their kitchen table and accompany them on Campus Life trips. Seeing an intact marriage with a front row seat to watching a HAPPY couple raise kids together is something the guys and girls in your youth group need to see.
4) My bonus deal.
I am not sure how many females in ministry have husbands who also LOVE youth ministry, but I am beyond blessed to have my husband as my #1 volunteer and fan. I call us (even though I should not I am sure) the 2 for 1 deal. Whatever church lands us, has always landed my funny, extroverted, lovable husband too. After 15 years of doing youth work, I've found him to always be a big hit! He wanted to be a youth pastor, but I think it was his dad who encouraged him to pursue something a little more financially stable. So instead of being a youth pastor himself, he married one. It works great for me! He loves video games, mentoring guys, and follows Jesus with much more zest, pizzazz, and transparency than most people I know.
Yup I am a woman, a mom, and I am in Youth Ministry.
So how do YOU women in youth ministry relate to the guys in your youth group?