We are officially on the ground and running at the Kirk after a longer kick-off season this year, and most of you are likely beginning to find your stride as well. Fall kick-off is an exhausting time which doesn’t provide much of a break until Thanksgiving when pastors might take a day or two to restart and gear up for Advent. For youth pastors, there hasn’t been much of a break since Spring Break (maybe)!
It didn’t take long into my first year as a youth & young adult pastor to not only realize, but accept and act on the fact that there is no way that I can do this alone. Even with a staff of four pastors, there is just too much work to go around!
At first, I figured if I could just plan and prioritize better, I could make it work. I bought a white board and divided it into the four very general sections of my job – youth group, confirmation, young adults, and general. I listed important dates and to-do items on this board. On a smaller board, I kept a daily to-do list. This worked for roughly a week. The problem that I ran into was that my job cannot be generalized. Under the two “simple” titles of youth and young adults, there are many smaller facets which then break down again (and possibly again). The young adults have just as many activities as the youth and require pastoral care in a different way at a different time.
I sat staring at my breakdown of the components of my job and wondered what to do. I remembered that the youth portion was also layered with three or four tiers of leadership which made that side manageable in theory, but what could I do to really strengthen that so that the system was more supportive than “hanging in there”? On the young adult side (which was quickly growing into young adults and families), there was nothing. This is a newer component and was taking a great deal of time with very little support system.
I quickly set to work adding tiers under my umbrella and strengthening those already at work. Youth volunteers went through more specified training at the start of this year, and will do so throughout the year. I asked a variety of young adults if they would be willing to help start a leadership team and we met to plan the semester and then take on leadership if different activities.
All too often, pastors become event planners and spend their time juggling a calendar rather than sitting with people. I found myself growing more and more frustrated with my time behind a computer screen rather than spending time with my people. I also learned that as I was putting these systems in place and strengthening what was already there, I had to be willing to let go and let the system work! When personal stress collided with professional stress in the middle of a meeting, I finally did let go and told my leaders I couldn’t do this without them.
Asking for help in our jobs, whatever they are, is not the weakness that I thought at one point. Asking for help does not mean that we are not capable. Asking for help, forming and strengthening support systems – that is what makes us strong! As I have told each of my leaders, no ministry succeeds if only person is behind it. If we want to anything to succeed, there has to be buy in. Success requires strategic and focused leadership from different angles. If one person leads everything, everything will suffer. If a team leads everything, each person within the team and ministry will grow in a new way!
Christ did not try to minister alone. Christ called a team together who first walked with him and listened before they started to assist and then minister on their own. Finally, when it was time for Christ to leave us the disciples and so many others were ready (even if they didn’t think so) to carry on the ministry.
As the year kicks off and you look at your calendar wondering how to best tackle today, this week and this month, remember that you don’t have to do this alone! Look to your support teams and if you don’t have one, start one. Find those who are invested in the ministry and ask them for help, because that help will only make you stronger!
Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div.’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)