Several months ago with the help of some Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) field staff we began a peer-learning group for youth pastors who are female. There are seven of us and I am the old lady of the group (Read: old enough to be their momma).
These young women are gifted, talented, pop culture gurus who are called and passionate ministers. They are technology savvy and speak a millennial code that transports me back to my Hebrew class as I often grasp the code meaning but not the specific translation.
These young ministers energize me, challenge me and inspire me. They also remind me I am no longer a young minister.
Due to a chronic illness I am protective of my schedule. I rely on folks to open things and carry things. I lead bible study and games from a chair. Regular trips to a hair stylist keep my natural hair coloring “in check” and I take naps. I have traded my stylish shoes for shoes with support and comfort and it has been a long time since I was called cool.
I use a MacBook but can’t seem to figure out how to work on more than one project at a time or load my iTunes account. My iPhone might as well be a flip phone considering the few apps I use and to be honest I prefer books.
I am an old school (Read: I would use technology if it was available, but I am not going to figure out how to make it available) teacher and facilitator and while I keep abreast of pop culture I am more likely to insert illustrations into a study rather than play a clip.
Life has taught me that far more than any study I lead or any cool game I introduce, my life speaks.
How I treat people, how I love people, how I share my story, how I relentlessly seek after, and even how vulnerable I am speaks louder than any “perfectly crafted” study or “cool” game I demonstrate. I have come to understand there is a sacred holiness to doing life together (Thank you, Bonhoeffer, for that term.).
In doing life together convictions and beliefs, discipleship and mission are caught. Later, when words are necessary, they are used to explain significance and meaning (Thank you, Saint Francis.)
On Sunday I watched as some of our youth girls received communion from deacons who were female. The ones in the pew in front of me took the elements without a thought.
I was not surprised. These youth had been a part of lengthy discussions over the past few years as we wrestled with supportive and non-supportive scriptures.
I then watched our sixth graders. Having only done life with them a short while I wondered how they would react. Tears popped into my eyes as they responded the same as the older youth. Somehow without a lengthy study, without a minister to guide their curiosity and challenge their opinions, they knew the gender of deacons is irrelevant.
Glancing over at the pastor, I evaluated the deacons serving communion. One male was the grandson of a former pastor. Two sibling pairs (one male, one female) were represented. One deacon was the spouse of the former deacon chair (last year they served together). Half of those serving were female. The faces of the other deacons came to mind as tears flowed.
I’d like to say I would have recognized the sacredness of this moment when I was younger, but I am not sure. When I was the age of the women in my peer group life was complicated. I chose to bury myself in my spouse’s ministry and have children.
My call to ministry came after I turned thirty. Truth is, I never was a young minister. I was always the momma.
In that sacred communion moment I realized the things I sometimes think render me less qualified to be a youth pastor actually make me more qualified. Innately, I minister in synergy with other church ministries and leaders. Events and ministry opportunities are intentionally designed to teach the congregation’s convictions as church dreams and visions are implemented.
My “momma lens” helps me interpret behavior, guide gatherings, create opportunities, and informs how I do life with our youth. It is the same in my peer-learning group.
In this season of Epiphany, the Church celebrates the gifts that were brought to a momma and daddy for the Christ Child. Just as Mary marveled at the wonder of it all, I am hoping 2016 will be the year the marvel of doing life with all of these folks will transform this no- longer-young youth pastor into the one she needs to be.
Fierce. Fabulous…and definitely over 50!
Katrina Stipe Brooks is Youth Pastor at Madison Heights Baptist church in Virginia. The other Rev. Brooks is Tony, who work for the BGAV. Katrina is also mom to Tara, who is also a minister, and Joe, who works for GE.