The Myth of the Youth Minister Personality
What color are you? What animal type describes you? What combination of the alphabet are you? If you were a fruit, what would you be and why? Sound familiar? At some time in our lives we’ve heard all these questions in some form or another. We’ve been in job interviews, or on staff retreats or in a school counselor’s office trying to find just the right way to describe our personality. We have been told that there’s a particular description or combination of letters (INJF, ABCD…blah, blah) that will nail our traits down to the very last detail.
We have come to believe that particular traits are expected or not expected in certain staff roles and not in others.I believe that it is because of this myth about our personalities that we have developed this mentality in regards to ministry roles. We, especially as collective congregations, have come to believe that particular traits are expected or not expected in certain staff roles and not in others. I’ve seen this in particular in my work in youth ministry over the past 13 years. It seems that we’ve moved past the mentality that a youth worker must be a young, unmarried male who can play the guitar (thank goodness!) However, we still haven’t moved from having an overall expectation, or lack thereof, of what should be expected from youth workers.
You see, youth workers are often seen as the fun ones, the free spirits, the creative and scattered. And while these are great traits, our youth and their families deserve more! They deserve intentional planning for their discipleship journeys. Unfortunately I continue to see youth workers living into these perceptions rather than raising the expectations and showing that we are professionals capable of much more than planning awesome games.
And why is this shift so important, you say? Well, there are a couple reasons. First, by changing the perception of the “type,” we show our youth (and our congregations) that all types can be called to youth ministry as a career. Personally, I had ruled out youth ministry as an option early on because the game portion of Sunday night youth group was the part that I dreaded the most! How in the world was I ever going to be a youth minister if I didn’t like playing games?! But someone reminded me that God calls us all because we all have gifts to share…and I quickly found that one of my gifts was to recognize someone who really likes games and put them in charge of that part of the programming!
Allowing youth ministers to act more professionally and respecting their programming are great first steps in eliminating the systematic idea that there’s one “type” of youth minister out there.Another reason we have to change the perception of a singular “type” of youth minister is because we are allowing both our youth workers and our churches to lower their expectations of how much professional potential youth workers possess. For example, youth workers are generally thought to be scattered and last minute planners. Churches often let this go because of their perceptions of this singular personality type. Additionally, it can be the case that youth ministers play into this perception because it’s either easier or they haven’t been invited to learn such professional skills. Allowing (and perhaps even expecting) youth ministers to act more professionally and respecting their programming are great first steps in eliminating the systematic idea that there’s one “type” of youth minister out there.
Knowing who you are is important. Knowing that the person you are can be called to any form of ministry because of the person you are, not the “type” you fit, is vital to building the Kingdom.
Michelle guides us through the organized side of youth ministry in her course with BeADisciple.
Michelle Moore is the Director of Program and Marketing for Camp and Retreat Ministries as well as Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. She has been involved in Youth Ministry roles ranging from volunteer, intern, part-time, and full-time roles for over 12 years. She also serves as the Adult Coordinator for the Arkansas Conference Council on Youth Ministries for the United Methodist Church, overseeing youth and adults who are charged with planning seven state-wide youth events each year. She loves to organize, plan, be productive and to help others do the same. You can see some her her tips on her website.
Moore is a 2006 graduate of Hendrix College from which she received a degree in Religious Studies. She received her Masters in Specialized Ministry with an emphasis in Youth Ministry from Southwestern College. She also has her Certification in Youth Ministry through Perkins School of Theology.
Main post image credit: Seth Lemmons from Boise, Unites States (09-September_qwest_pie_throwing_0121) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons