Are You a Real Pastor?
Did this article’s title already trigger you? I hope so – it’s borderline clickbait! But recently, I was met with the age-old question that cuts Youth and Student Pastors at the knees, “are you, like, a real Pastor here?” Let’s go ahead and put the cart before the horse…YES, you are a “real” Pastor.
A few weeks ago, I went to pick up my daughter from our church preschool. We have a weekday preschool program that meets right down the hallway from my office, and I love that I get to see my kid in the hallway every day. I also get to interact with her teachers a lot. That day, I went down the hallway to pick her up, and there was a new teacher subbing in her class. I said hi, gave my daughter a big hug, and told her it was time to go. The teacher remarked how great it was that I was right down the hallway every day and how special that was for us. But then she asked the question. You know it. “So, are you, like, a real Pastor here?”
I explained that, yes, I was the Student Pastor, so I ministered to all our students and their families. To which she responded, “Oh, so you’re not the real Pastor. That’s this person?” I wasn’t offended and didn’t really want to unpack a whole theological discussion about what makes a “real” Pastor. So, I smiled and told her that, yes, we do have a Senior Pastor who oversees everything at our church. She smiled back, and we went about the rest of our day.
Again, I wasn’t offended at all. I’m grateful for the role I play in our church. I’ll always die on the hill defending that youth ministry is a calling for real pastors, not just a stepping stone to another role. Since this is a youth ministry article you’re reading, I hope you’d agree with that. But I will admit, her comments stuck with me the rest of the day. Maybe she didn’t know any better. Maybe she wasn’t familiar with church staffing. Maybe she didn’t have a great youth ministry experience…who knows?
Later that night, I went to a graduation party for a student, while her question still circled around my mind. Isn’t that just like anxiousness or insecurity? It sticks around until you start to overthink it. I walked into the party, took pictures with some of my students there, high-fived a few parents, and ate too many cookies, nothing too out of the ordinary. As I was headed back for another cookie, I saw a woman talking about her son, who was the best friend of my student, and he’s come to our events multiple times. So I went over and introduced myself…“Hey, I’m Brandon. I’m their Student Pastor. It’s great to meet you.” She looked at me, paused, and all but knocked me over with one of the biggest hugs I’ve ever gotten. “You’re Brandon?! Oh my gosh, I’m so, so happy to finally meet you! You don’t know how much you have done for my son and how much you have influenced his life. I can’t thank you enough!” After multiple more hugs, we began talking about their family, how awesome I thought her son is, and I got so much more insight into how our group has impacted them. It was super encouraging.
Earlier that day, I was asked if I was a real pastor. That night I was embraced as someone who made a real difference in another’s life. I’m not sure if God was just heart-checking me that day or if He knew I needed encouragement in a special way, but I went home that night with a smile on my face and a heart full of joy.
If you’re still with me here, then hear me plainly. Student Pastor, Youth Pastor, Youth Worker, Minister to Students, whatever your title is…YOU ARE A REAL PASTOR. Not only that, you are a real leader, a real shepherd, a real proclaimer of truth, a real encourager, a real chosen individual that God has placed to directly lead others to Jesus. You are a real game-changer. And you do make a real difference. As I said earlier, youth ministry is not a stepping stone to something else. It is a direct calling to lead young people through some of the most challenging and developmental years in their life. Don’t ever take that for granted. Don’t ever feel like you aren’t making a real impact. You are. And I hope that’s a call to action to be faithful where God has placed you even right this very second.
I hope you have many more days of hugs and thank you’s than you ever do of questions like the title of this article. But either way, never forget you have been placed where you are with a purpose and mission to lead. Those students and families need you. So, get out there and do some “real pastor” work.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- Have you ever struggled with feeling less than as a youth pastor? How do you combat that?
- Do you always see your calling to student ministry as real and valid? How can you trust that it is even when you don’t feel it?
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