Prenancy in Youth Ministry @youth_min

church, Contributions, leadership, women, youth ministry, youthmin.org

pregnant volunteers

This post originally appeared here: http://www.youthmin.org/pregnancy-in-youth-ministry/

Pregnancy in youth ministry:  Nope, I am not talking about your teenagers, I am talking about your ministers.  Starting a family is an intimidating thought to begin with, but trying to balance it with ministry is even more difficult.  Imagine being a woman in ministry: having to deal with morning sickness in Sunday School, the pregnancy leave from the ministry, the breastfeeding at church camp.  Trying to figure out the whole pregnancy thing brings so many questions, but mainly How can I do this?  

Women ministers, are you pregnant or thinking about starting a family?  While I have never been pregnant myself, I have done some research and talked with the fine ladies in our Facebook group.  Please chime in with additional advice in the comment section!

While You’re Pregnant

  • Decide how you’re going to inform your pastor, the church, and the youth group.  It is probably not the best idea to post it on Facebook and let everyone go crazy.  It will be much more professional and personal to do it in person.
  • Start preparing your volunteers to take charge of the ministry while you leave on pregnancy leave.  As the pregnancy progresses, you are going to have days where you are not going to be as reliable as you once were.  Prepare them so that if you have to leave the lesson to relieve your bursting bladder, they will be able to pick it up.
  • Make a plan with your husband.  How is this all going to look when the baby gets here?  Will one of you take a little extra time off?  What is your schedule going to look like once the baby gets here?
  • Realize that you can’t do the same activities you could before.  But just because you cannot zip-line or ski does not mean your students cannot!  There are ways for you to be able to go on trips with them without having to do the activities; and if you just can’t go, no one will blame you.  Do not feel like your level of commitment lessens—your students will understand why you do not want to tube on your pregnant belly (well, you might have to explain it to the middle school boys).

The Pregnancy Leave

  • Know your laws about maternity leaves.  Investigate what that looks like and talk to your church about how they will accommodate that.
  • Do as much preparation as you can in as much advance as you can.  Will your church hire a temporary youth minister, or will you have to equip volunteers to run the ministry while you are gone?  Whatever you choose, you will have to decide early on in your pregnancy; you do not want to have to decide these things and prepare volunteers to do your job when your hormones are raging, your back is hurting, and you feel exhausted and burned-out from a baby kicking your insides.
  • Decide your level of commitment beforehand—how involved will you be?  Will you be around and available to volunteers, or will you be strict about your maternity leave?  Will you even come near your church during this time?  You will need to decide these things.  Typically a maternity leave means “no contact,” but will that work for your ministry?  Most importantly—stick to your plan!  There will be people calling you up while you are still in the hospital unless you make it clear exactly your level of involvement during this period.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help; you are performing life’s greatest miracle and need time to recover as well as spend time with your precious newborn.  You do not need to worry about a ministry on top of breastfeeding.  Relax and trust that everything will be fine while you’re gone.

After You’ve Returned to the Ministry

  • Realize that it will take some time to adjust, even after you return to the church.  Many women struggle with their emotions following having a baby.
  • Do not be discouraged when you find you cannot commit the same way you used to.  Fortunately you work for the church, a building full of God’s saints.  Even though the church may not always be pretty, no one can resist a baby.  No teenager will be mad because you missed the mud tug-o-war because you were taking care of your baby.  In fact, having a baby might unite your students in ways you never expected.  Realize that you have a youth group full of babysitters who will take your baby off your hands (and if not your students, their parents will be willing to help).  Every woman I have talked to has talked about how great their church was to them throughout their pregnancy and after the baby was born.  Trust that it will be fine.

Remember: You can be a minister AND a mom.  You will show your youth how to prioritize and balance God, your marriage, your new family, and your ministry.  Allow the Holy Spirit to lead your motherly senses. :)

Women in Youth Ministry: My Story @youth_min

Contributions, women, youth ministry, youthmin.org

Female Youth Workers

This post originally appeared on: http://www.youthmin.org/women-in-youth-ministry-my-story/

I broke the youth minister mold, and I am admittedly proud of it.  I’m young, I’m single, I’m female.  Yet at about 23, I’ve already had multiple internships in churches of differing sizes andserved as the youth minister in a small, Southern Baptist Church for two years.  I’ve surprised myself, surprised others, and have come a long way in a short time.

Growing up SBC, I wasn’t sure about a woman’s role in the church. I heard all these sermons about spreading the Gospel, yet I didn’t see many women who were serving in leadership positions.  In middle school, my youth minister was a female, but she left and a male took over the group.  All of my friends’ churches had male leaders.  When I was called to ministry at 17 years old, it was the conviction within the members of my church that pushed me to embrace the opportunity.  Yet, although everyone saw my calling, it was hard to place me in a role.

I recently graduated from an SBC university with degrees in Youth Ministry and Theology.  Surprisingly all of my ministry professors embraced women in ministry; however there were no female professors within the college of ministry/theology.  Most of the other women in the ministry program did not feel called to the church setting, but a camp or unchurched setting; so I was pretty unique in that.  The church I ministered in was also in the town, and it was well-known throughout my colleagues and professors who I was and what I did.  My male colleagues never challenged my role in the local church, yet voiced their opinions about the ability for a woman to be in ministry in classes of which I was not present.  The most ignorant comments usually came from people who were just meeting me and weren’t within the ministry college: “Women can do that now?!”

When I first got the position at that church as a real, legit “Youth Minister”, I didn’t have feelings of excitement, but overwhelmed.  I had theological convictions, but no examples of women who had “made it” to be a woman in youth ministry.  I knew women could be youth ministers, but I wasn’t convinced they could in my church.  These thoughts were the pins and needles I walked on throughout my two years at this small church.  At larger events, I wouldn’t talk for more than ten minutes for fear that someone would consider me “preaching.”  I had trouble finding a male volunteer to disciple the males in my youth group one-on-one.  I was afraid of over-stepping boundaries because I was a woman.  And why?  Because I had no examples of how to do ministry as a woman, just the assurance that I could.

I sought out an online network of ministers.  I grew encouraged by women who have been doing youth ministry for as long as I have been alive, and also grew with noobs like myself.  Yet there still weren’t a lot of women in these communities; this may be representative of the youth ministry community (especially with similar theological dispositions as mine), representative of women like me who were afraid to speak up, or representative of women who have time to network on top of other things (like raising families).

On my university campus I was an officer for a national organization dedicated to educating and discipling a generation of ministers.  I also intentionally developed relationships with women in the college of ministry/theology, offering a support and model of a woman who “made it” (even in an SBC church!).  This was my baby—I found my voice and became a role model for women in ministry.  This is where I found the ability to be a woman in ministry—a bold leader who embraces her spiritual gift of teaching and womanly gifting of exhortation for the Kingdom of God.

What do I personally want?  I want the stereotypes to end.  I don’t fit the current mold—I’m not athletic, I don’t own TOMS, and my guitar skills are mediocre at best.  And just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I can’t control my PMS and I’m too emotional to give hard truth to people (anyone who knows me can tell you I’m a truth-puncher).  I want people to look at me and not see a little girl wanting to play church, but a woman who is passionate about ministry and is theologically and practically trained.  I want people to stop thinking that because I’m not married, every aspect of my life needs to be devoted to the church and I need to be willing to step in for “extra tasks”.  I don’t want people to expect me to stop ministering when I actually do marry and have children.  And when I do decide to have children, I want a church staff to not find another minister just because I need a pregnancy leave.  I want church staffs to take me seriously, not as “the girl on staff,” but the Youth PASTOR.  I want to be paid the same as a man would in my position, because I’ve worked for it just as hard, if not harder because of the gender-persecution I have overcome.  I want to “preach” and not “share,” and maybe even in “big church” once in a while.  I want churches to quit asking me how I relate to teenage boys, when they don’t ask men how they relate to teenage girls.  More than anything, I want people to understand my Biblical and cultural convictions that women can be leaders within the local church.

I know that I haven’t experienced everything there is to see in ministry.  I’m sure I will see more discrimination.  But even more, I will see a generation of women rising up and embracing opportunities for leading within the Church.  I want to be a part of the generation of youth ministers (both male and female) that don’t just teach theologically that a woman can take part in ministry, but show practically so that women won’t be afraid of leading.

I’m now the prettiest contributor for YouthMin.Org

Contributions, testimony, women, youth ministry, youthmin.org

Recently something very cool happened to me.  I was asked to write a guest post for YouthMin.Org on women in ministry–which I should know ALL about given my estrogen levels.  And what do you know? They asked me to become a contributor.

I’m pretty stoked about this.  What does this mean for this blog?  Well, I won’t post as much youth-y stuff on it.  One of the great things about YouthMin.Org is that we are seeking to build a one-blog, one-community place for youth ministry.  This is great for a girl like me, who has like 200 people who have been named “top youth ministry blogs” but are filling up my feed with the same old stuff.  I’m sick of the self-promotion.  Why can’t we promote a community?  That’s what this being a part of the Body of Christ is about.

Another thing I love is it’s all about “everyday youth pastors.”  I’m no super-star and no matter how I try, I will never be the female Josh Griffin or Doug Fields.  I’m a young minister who is learning from others and teaching what I learn.  And from what I can tell, these contributors are humble in the same way.

So I encourage you, dear friends, to check out YouthMin.Org for everything youth ministry.  As for this blog, I will continue talking about life lessons I am learning.  And yes, they will talk about ministry.  Ministry is my life.  It will just be different (although my last year of blogging has differed than the year before and so on and so forth ;) )

Blessings,
Heather