When I went to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in March, I was stoked. One of the biggest blessings that I had was being able to meet so many people that I have networked with over the last three years in the blogosphere. I had some really encouraging and hilarious conversations with many people who have a decade more experience and eons more wisdom than I.
One thing that showed up in our conversations is their affirmation of the characteristic in myself that I sometimes hate: my transparency. I was often told that my transparency is what sets me apart, and never stop showing that. This was encouraging for me, as I rarely get transparency from people as much as I show it, and one of the biggest things I struggle with in the personality of youth pastors is their lack of transparency.
So, session after class after conversation, this theme showed up. In a large-group session, I was pushed to visualize my struggles and let them go. In this session, we were encouraged to write all of our junk on a hackey sack with a marker. I wrote junk after junk after junk on this thing. Then we had to get in a small group and share one thing. I looked around and saw some very empty hackey sacks, and heard some even emptier answers. When it was my turn to share, I clammed up. Yes me. I walled up and let out some answer that was half the truth, because the rest of my group couldn’t share their junk. Then we had to group-juggle our hackey sacks, which could have been a great exercise to show the fact that we sometimes not only juggle our junk, but others’ as well…except my group wanted to make a systematic “1–2–3″ countdown in order to pass ours around. It showed me that even though I may be transparent, and others may say they want more transparency, many still won’t show it.
So youth pastor, cut the crap. If we can’t be transparent about these issues with one another, then we have a serious problem.
Transparency is hard, I get it. We are afraid that the truth will drive others away. We are fearful that if we were to get real with one another, we may be looked at as a Negative Nancy.
But what transparency does is worth it: First off, it makes you feel better. You realize that someone out there gets it. You begin to understand that you are not the only person struggling with what you are struggling with, and you can solve the issue together.
We are in ministry together.
One of the things I love is the Facebook group community that YouthMin.Org has. Many youth pastors are transparent on there and share their struggles…and even if not publicly, they message myself and other contributors and share their junk with us (and I with them).
One passage that I meditate on time and time again is in Philippians 4, and I’m sure you can quote this by heart: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
But we forget that next verse: “Yet it was kind of you to share my struggle.” We struggle with junk after junk, but not alone. We do this as a team.
Feel free to contact me or anybody on the team, and let’s do this together.
Heather Lea Campbell works with at-risk youth in the city of St. Louis. In her spare time, she loves: networking with fellow youth workers, St. Louis Cardinals, hanging out with her kid sister, shaking from coffee consumption, judging others' grammatical errors, and laughing at her own jokes. Read more at http://heatherleacampbell.me or follow her @heatherlea17 #womanyouthpastorswag