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Too Old to be a Woman in Youth Ministry

old womanLiving in Michigan, I hear a lot of people complain about the snow or look at me with crazy eyes because I chose to move here from sunny California. I am not a grumpy winter complainer. I don’t complain about the cold, the snow, or the temperature that is too crazy cold to take kids to play outside.  I am not sure why, but  I love winter. Maybe it’s because I like actually being able to wear scarves, cute boots, and cardigans 7 months out of the year.

I love winter because I like change. I like something new and different coming at me. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in San Diego my entire life up until 15 months ago and winter is still a novelty. When it comes down to it, I love variety. As a woman in youth ministry, I need variety too!

Variety is exactly why I am excited for the Woman in Youth Ministry Campference.Not because I am often outnumbered by men in ministry talking too much about basketball, but because I don’t get much (if any) intentional time with women who do what I do, from a variety of denominations, experiences, ages, and stages. I need to widen the circle of women I know in youth ministry to serve with, to advocate for, to befriend, to encourage, to learn from, to be challenged by.

I need to be at WYMC because I need you. And you need me.

I remember walking through a large church in Atlanta a couple of years ago, a young woman in youth ministry was giving me a tour. She showed me the gym, the offices, the preschool, the coffee shop. We walked the church campus together and as I saw her heart and passion for middle school students, I asked her, “So where do you see yourself in ten years?” Her answer was this:  “I see myself leading family ministry, because I think I’d be too old, irrelevant, and lack the energy to lead middle school anymore.”

I was slightly shocked, not because I was 15 years older than her…leading middle schoolers (I am not sure she knew that), but because her vision for her own youth ministry calling seemed limited to her own experience and assumptions. She needed variety. She needed exposure to what youth ministry is and isn’t. She needed to see what leading as a woman in youth ministry can be like at age  20 or 40 or 60. She needed me. And I needed her.

As I wrote in my book, A Woman in Youth Ministry, I was walking those halls in Atlanta with this young youth worker because I was in fact a youth pastor interviewing for a prestigious family ministry pastor position at a large and well funded church.  She was my designated tour giver. The longer I was in Atlanta interviewing for that job, the more crystal clear it became to me that youth ministry isn’t something to age out of when energy fades and wrinkles appear. It wasn’t something I wanted to give up. Her words prompted the Holy Spirit to speak into my soul and call me back to this lifelong calling. To not age out.

This spring at WYMC, I will be sharing and encouraging you to see the possibility of how you can belong in youth ministry at any age, stage, volunteer, or paid. When we women gather together…we open doors of possibility.

After the snow melts and spring arrives, I look forward to this much needed gathering of women in youth ministry. I need to see the possibility of being 60 years old and leading a youth group. To see that we belong in youth ministry as women. The introverts and extroverts. The liberal and the conservative. For each of us to see and know those who are like us, and those who are much different. To champion the single mom and small group leader. To wonder and ask  “Can I still do this youth ministry thing after giving birth to my third child?” To lean into leadership together when one of you is secretly an introvert who hates sports and cries at the thought of being in a swimsuit and being launched off anything called a “blob” at summer camp.

Whether I am old, young, in the best health of my life, or signing up for Weight Watchers (again), I can thrive. I can lead. I can be a Woman in Youth Ministry.

headshotgina.jpg-250x250Gina has been in youth ministry a little longer than The Tower of Terror has been open at Disneyland’s California Adventure. Gina traded in her Disneyland passes and California sunshine to move to Grand Rapids, MI in 2013 to lead the 7th/8th grade ministry at Mars Hill. She lives with her Star Wars loving husband, 3 kids, and a dog named Boo. Gina, recently released her first book, A Woman in Youth Ministryand serves on the ministry council for the National Network of Youth Ministry, representing women in youth ministry. Gina can be found decoding Taylor Swift Lyrics, hanging out with Middle Schoolers, or shooting foam finger rockets at her children.

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