When I was a senior in high school, my youth pastor was leaving to go to a larger church. And while I was sad to see him go, I felt okay about it because it was a no-brainer that we would hire Amy. Amy was a youth pastor whom we had come to know because she was working bi-vocationally at a smaller church down the road from us. She wanted to be full-time in ministry, had amazing gifts, knew us from some denominational events and wanted to come to our church.
I was stunned when she wasn’t hired.
When I asked the senior pastor why (I was new to the faith and didn’t know that we weren’t supposed to ask questions!), I was told Amy wasn’t hired because she was a woman. In a denomination supposedly pro-woman in ministry, we passed on Amy and not long after, she left youth ministry altogether. I think about her a great deal.
One of the things that has long troubled me is that the generation before me and my generation aren’t making significant investments in the women I see and believe God has called to youth ministry. I saw lots of us making space in budgets for internships that tended to go towards young men and we asked young women to consider children’s ministry. Honestly, it bothered me and I committed to doing my part to help the next generation of young people – men and women – to have opportunities to grow in their leadership and their ministry and have great mentoring from me and those I know.
For years now, I have pushed the churches I worked for to hire interns, both male and female. I have advocated camps and events find capable and gifted women to speak and share in front of my youth group girls AND boys. (One 20 year+ old organization said no one had ever asked that of them. The next summer they used a woman speaker I endorsed and recommended with amazing results.)
So when I saw that The Youth Cartel was creating the first ever Campference for women in youth ministry, I knew that I would support it. So this year, I am sending two amazing young women in youth ministry to the Campference out of my own pocket.
I am sending my friend Kristin, a former intern who is a spectacular youth worker, who fought her way through a traumatic first church job where her gender was sadly part of why she was treated poorly. Kristin has gotten to a better place and I want her in the game for the long haul. And I am sending Katie, whom I met a couple years ago on a summer mission trip where I was speaking. I had brought along a young man in ministry that I am mentoring on that trip and after swapping some emails, Katie asked me to help her and her ministry by being a mentor to her. That drive in ministry and her amazing gifts made it a no brainer to send her to the Campference as well.
So here is my challenge to you: who do you know who is an amazing female youth worker that needs this experience? Who can you sponsor to be a part of this unique experience that the Youth Cartel is creating?
We need to be making investments in the next generation of leaders in youth ministry, and especially in the gifted and capable women who God is calling. I wish someone had done it along time ago to Amy. She deserved better and I wonder what great gifts she would have brought that we have lost.