Typically, it’s from a couch, behind a music stand, in the middle of a home renovation, at a restaurant or around a campfire. The youth pastor’s pulpit can and has been anywhere and everywhere. If youth frequent a location or have established a comfortable spot to be open and trusting…well, that’s where we’ll worship. This is part of our calling as those who genuinely care for students and also part of our package of gifts as their leaders. We have the skills to create a worship format and homily in the most extreme contexts imaginable….except it seems for one particularly scary and foreign space….the pulpit. There might be nothing more impactive for a youth group to witness than their leader, counselor, teacher and way-pointer sharing the good news from the very same spot the rest of the pastors make their proclamations.
Yes – we all know that God can move in every location and format available and even those we have not imagined yet! But that also means the pulpit….maybe in a robe with a stole? Maybe in a coat and tie? Maybe in the more traditional worship service where some of our youth attend with the entire families? This visual is important for multiple reasons… Having the youth pastor in the pulpit elevates her or him to a place of high esteem and value for the congregation (literally and figuratively). It says – we care about what you have to say. We want to hear your faith perspectives. We view you as one of our ministers. You deserve to be in that spot.
Senior pastors need to recognize this value and make it possible to see and hear from this integral staff member. The pastors that won’t share their hallowed space are implicitly, if not explicitly saying the youth portion of our churches ministry is not as important as the rest. These actions do the church and community a disservice. A youth pastor in the pulpit also sets a clear model and solid example for our youth. After all – isn’t that one of our goals as their leaders? Not simply because they can see the director they admire being publically treasured, but because it paves the way for their entrance into the very same location. At times, it may be on a youth Sunday or in a more non-traditional style of worship. However, it also may be a path to seminary or divinity school for ordained ministry, evangelism, worship leadership, missionary service, or possibly even a bold protestor for social justice and a new kingdom! The most repetitive complaint shared by all those in youth related ministry is that their vocation or their students work is underappreciated by the congregation as a whole. We regularly have to fight for budget money, educational space, committee inclusion and general respect. If we hope to truly accomplish our goals maybe we should also carve out a spot on the preaching rotation. Sure, we might be nervous, uncomfortable, and even take a few shots of criticism along the way. But if we can’t stand in front of the congregation and profess the faith as one of the pastors…who can? Probably not too many of our youth.