U-Haul, University, and Youth Ministry
My wife and I are moving into our first house ever in about a month. We're really excited! And in order to make the move across town all the more smooth I went ahead and ordered a 17' U-Haul truck the other day. The funny thing about ordering a U-Haul truck is that you don't have to be qualified to drive one, they just hand you the keys as soon as you've handed them the right amount of money. Think about that for a second. You hand over some cash and they hand you the keys to a vehicle that is, in no uncertain terms, enormous. My main mode of transportation for the last 2 years has been a Honda Metropolitan scooter (yea, I'm gangster, I know). The engine in my scooter is the size of the seat belt buckle on this U-Haul truck...yet they feel no remorse in giving me the keys to such a beast.
Honestly, I feel like this is what a lot of University's do to their ministry graduates. 'Well here's 4 years of marginally useful education...good luck out there...hope you don't burn out and become a statistic'. They prepare their students to drive a 'scooter' and when we get hired at a church they hand us the keys to a 'U-Haul truck'. We are totally unprepared for what REAL ministry is about.
I went to a highly ranked, academically superior Christian University (Go Trojans!) but I was not prepared for the rigors of everyday ministry at all. I learned how to study the Bible, how to teach the Bible, and how to write a good paper but I was NOT taught how to partner with parents, how to run a budget, how to plan a yearly calendar, how to recruit volunteer leaders, how to deal with HS pregnancies, how to deal with the death of a student, or how to counsel teenagers in the midst of pain. I was equipped to do the easy part of ministry, not the hard part...and that is a shame.
Is it any wonder that so many of us burn out so quickly?? We are thrown into the fire/lions den/mire/quicksand/whatever metaphor you like and expected to survive without proper training. Those of us that make it out the other side of the 18 month average* are few and far between. So many of us get eaten up by things we never knew we would have to deal with.
I say this not for pity but as a youth pastor who has had to learn on the fly how to handle all of those things listed earlier. I would have loved to have had a 'Reality of Ministry 101' class in college. A professor who has been there before that said, 'this is what creating and balancing a budget is like. This is what you can expect from parents. This is one way to plan a ministry year calendar. Here is a way to counsel your teens and parents through a student's death.'
Real, practical, everyday knowledge that goes hand in hand with the knowledge of how to study and teach the Bible...that is what we need to learn at University.
* 18 months is the 'normal' life expectancy of a youth pastor at 1 church.
PPS. Please pray for the youth ministry at your church, as well as the pastor(s), volunteers, students, and families.