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Youth Pastor is more than a title

Youth Pastor is more than a titleTwo weeks ago Adam McLane and I were in Haiti sitting with one of our Haitian translators. The translator asked me, “Are you a youth pastor?” I replied that I am. He turned to Adam and asked the same thing. Adam explained that he used to be a youth pastor, but now he works for Youth Specialties. Our translator pushed back and said that Adam is still a youth pastor even if he doesn’t work at a church. Adam didn’t really agree with him and, without missing a beat, our translator shot back, “You are always a pastor because being a pastor is your spiritual gift, not your title. Even if you don’t work at a church, you are still a pastor.”

The conversation quickly turned to my last name and how I’m a Nazi like Hitler because I have a German last name (don’t ask lol), but I’ve been thinking about what he said. Being a pastor is not just a title we’re assigned because we’re on paid staff at a church — it’s our spiritual gift. There are numerous implications of this perspective.

First, I went to school for 7 years to learn how to use my spiritual gift of pastor/shepherd, but most of the things I spend my time doing each day fall into administrative tasks and organizing details, a gift I don’t have. Hmm… I would much rather be doing pastoral care for teens.

Second, and more importantly, this means that there are probably a lot more pastors in my church than I think, including teenagers! This puts a whole new spin on the term, “youth pastor.” Right now, I am not intentionally using the youth pastors in my ministry, nor training them to do pastoral care in their schools and future work environments.

I think this is will be part of the process of correcting the way I’m doing youth ministry all wrong, but I’m still thinking and praying through it. I greatly appreciate and welcome all your insights. The comments below are open.


Posted on March 2, 2010

  • Ben Read

    Great way of thinking of things. Could shift the way we train our student leaders, and the ways we use them in the ministry. Wish more people in the congregation would understand this concept as well.

  • I must respectfully say that I don't agree. The "gift" of the pastorate is not my personal gift, it is God's office to serve the local church – Ephesians 4:11-12. Being a pastor (shepherd) is the title I am assigned and the ministry in which I serve. It is not my spiritual gift.

    • The office to serve the local church seems to be termed as "overseer" in scripture. The gift of pastoring seems to be indicated in Eph 4:11, "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers…"

      Since you also quoted that verse, you must be interpreting that to mean the Lord gives the positions to different people, not the gifts. i.e. apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are all positions/titles, not gifts. Interesting.

      • Huh….It cut off my whole comment last time and I didn't notice it. Sorry. Hopefully this whole thing gets in there – what I was trying to say is that it is not my spiritual gift as much as it is a gift to the church – you cannot separate pastor from the local church – the edifying of the body of Christ. Maybe that makes more sense?

  • Amen, when you first told me this story I started to think about how the words elder and pastor are interchangeable in scripture. Of course this goes way beyond that. If the priesthood is for all believers, then it would make sense that on some level all would pastor.

    Let me suggest that the position of pastor is an office, but the ability to pastor is a gift…something like that. Anyway it is both and, not either or.

  • 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 says;" It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant." God enables everyone to be ministers of the gospel.

  • I agree with the Italian translator. Pastoring, caring and serving people is a beautiful expression in the Kingdom for the Body. Where I disagree with Gabriel is his definition of the church. I don't think the original context of those scripture passages were meant to be understood in the light of our current institutionalized forms. Being pastoral doesn't need to be connected with a building, an organization, or a denomination.

    I appreciate my ordination in that it gives me license to do things in our culture like weddings and funerals. But in terms of what is really happening in my heart towards the Body of Christ, it is all about what God is doing in my life and has very little, if nothing, to do with the external recognition or title bestowed from others. Honestly the hierarchy we have attached to spiritual positions is more often than not distracting.

    • I am not understanding what you don't agree with. I never mentioned anything about a building, organization or denomination. If you are extracting that from my saying "local church," then we have very different ideas of what the local church is. I will saythat I do believe strongly in the primacy of the local church. The same definition of the called-out assembly that is put forth in the New Testament applies today as well as it did then.

  • I agree with Chad. Definition of church then and now are very different. Reminds of the old philosophical question,’ If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a noise?” If there are no church buildings are there no pastors? or church for that matter? Youth ministry is like the mafia, there really is no getting out. I tried.

    Michael Corleone:” Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”

    I guess I am just a youth ministry Goomba! There is no getting out alive. LOL

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