Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Women in Youth Ministry Profile

    As part of a new series of profiles of women serving in youth ministry, we visit with Devoree Crist. Devoree is a spiritual director, M.T.S. graduate of Eden Theological Seminary, and holds a Graduate Certificate in Spiritual Direction from the Aquinas Institute of Theology. She has been involved in lay youth ministry for 21+ years.

    What do you find most enjoyable about ministry with youth in the Church?

    I enjoy being around persons who are starting to think for themselves and are just beginning to develop their own understanding of God, of religion and of faith. Up until this time of life they are open to what they learn but as they enter into adolescence they begin to question things for themselves and make their own conclusions. There is still an innocence but with the world intruding upon it. It is a real pleasure to be there to witness those moments when they catch a glimpse of the Kingdom. It is also a great joy to help them see the options open to them that may not be so obvious when "in the world".

    What do you find most challenging about ministry with youth in the Church

    The greatest challenge for me is the number of persons doing youth ministry that have no experience with youth other than their own personal experience of being a youth, and/or no real desire to do youth ministry yet are placed in that position for a number of reasons. These are the people who are writing curriculum, running the youth programs in congregations and on the larger church level. I really cringe at what passes for youth ministry sometimes. " Keep them busy and out of our way" is the theme. Working against this type of thinking is the greatest challenge.

    What shifts or changes would you like to see in youth ministry in the next decade?

    I would like to see the youth (and younger children for that matter) better integrated into the life of the church on their terms. By this I mean making it easier for youth to participate in all facets of the church experience without just being a "mini-adult on a committee." For example, serving as liturgist (trained of course) and deacon. It is good to welcome their ideas and incorporate those ideas into planning. This is true whether the youth are able to go to committee meetings or not. It would be great to see youth feeling safe to offer their gifts in worship or other aspects of church life. I would like to see classes on youth ministry taught in the seminary. When someone is called into youth ministry they should have the proper skills to do so. In other words, recognizing that youth ministry is a specialized ministry.

    What would you say to other lay women who are considering a call to ministry with youth? Are there particular challenges or advantages to being a women in this area of ministry?

    I think anyone who wishes to work with youth must truly love youth. It is challenging work and not for everyone. If noise bothers you or you can't stand short attention spans, this is not for you. On the other hand, if you are someone who can be patient and love through mood swings and lots of drama, and if you can be flexible with your plans, then you will find this the most rewarding work. I am not sure that being female has any real advantage or disadvantage unless the whole church environment is chauvinistic. Sexism is alive and well in our churches and youth ministry is not immune. "You're a woman, you know how to take care of kids." This is not helpful in selecting a person to work in youth ministry. I suppose if you are a younger woman you might have some boundary issues, but that is true of younger men. I find that being an older woman gives me a little more authority - probably as mother figure which kids respond to well.

    Additional thoughts?

    It is really important to understand that not all youth are alike. There is really no such thing as "THE YOUTH". Youth groups vary in dynamic from year to year, from congregation to congregation. Some youth are quite mature at 13 while others are terribly immature at 18. Some groups as a whole are more introspective, some more superficial, some more energetic, some more laid back. Individuals may be musical, artistic, interested primarily in mission, or some have more secular inclinations. The key is to be open to whoever is in your group and to be with them where they are so that when God is working on them you don't miss it or get in the way. In addition, when you accept each as they are, a child of God, you help them to accept each other and that is the way safe space is created.


    Caroline said...

    Yes this is really interesting... go ahead and use the previous post from foreignhearts if you want to!

    Keep on keeping on, brother!

    Martha said...

    Thanks for such wise, insightful thoughts about both women and youth ministry. Women and youth are often marginalized (or compartmentalized might be a better term) in the life of the church, a loss for the body of Christ. Thanks for your witness! and your ministry!!

    Erin said...

    I love this! As a young woman who is active in youth ministry I can honestly say that I appreciate this interview!
    Pastoral support and energetic volunteers are also helpful.
    Does anyone else think it's particularly important for youth to have their own space (youth room?) in the church that doesn't necessarily turn into a catch-all for the stuff we can't figure out what to do with in the church??