About a year ago my job description changed, along with my title. Since then I’ve heard a few people tell me that I’m not “just a Youth Pastor” anymore, now I’m an Associate Pastor. While I’m confident their intentions are good and they’re trying to affirm me – those comments are actually insulting and belittling. Sure, now I’m the “Pastor of Youth & Families”… but let’s face it, I’m the Youth Pastor. If you ask me what my job is, that’s what I’ll say unless I’m being formal.
Whenever you add the word “just” before something else, you’re belittling whatever comes next. “I’m just a kid,” “I was just kidding,” “I’m just a volunteer,” etc. This is also why I hate the line “…just the sheep of his hand” in the popular worship song, “Come Let us Worship and Bow Down.” Using the word “just” will automatically devalue whatever follows.
So when you say I’m not “Just a Youth Pastor anymore,” what I hear you saying is this – “Youth Pastors aren’t real pastors who are called by God, qualified, and worthy of respect. But you’re not like that, now you’re a real pastor! Congratulations, you’ve made it!”
Through changing my job title/description, I wasn’t trying to avoid being the Youth Pastor (especially since that was never my actual job title), I was trying to elevate what it means to be a Youth Pastor to the level of respect it is due. Please, do not ask Youth Pastors when they’re going to become “real pastors” – unless you’re trying to tell them they aren’t real pastors already.
I’m proud of being a Youth Pastor, and know other Youth Pastors are too. Sometimes people wonder why there’s so much turnover among Youth Pastors and wonder what can be done to change that disappointing trend – maybe removing the word (or thought!) of “Just a Youth Pastor” from our church language would be a good starting point.