Today, one of my professors from seminary posted about a comedian named Nick Thune. He has a comedy routine about being a youth pastor that goes something like this:
I had to laugh as I watched this at my desk. Laugh at the fact that this guy is pretty funny, but also about the fact that this guy is right: when people think of youth pastors, they often think of young guys who play guitar that are hip and have gross beards that people mistakenly think are cool. They have fluctuation in their voice as they talk to try to woo the unsuspecting teen. And they typically have a tattoo or two that gives them a bit of street-cred and they wear thick, hipster, Warby Parkers that might or might not actually be prescription glasses.
This is a problem.
As a seasoned clergy-person in the church, I have more experience with youth that I can often remember and I am by no means a straight, white, male, with Warby Parkers, who has ironic tattoos, and who can play the guitar.
Instead, I am a queer, white, female, with lovely SALT brand glasses and a prescription too crazy to mention, who has tattoos but not in any ironic sort of way, and who paints.
I am not what people think of when they think of youth pastors.
We all know the church has been a male-dominated world. Much of the world and its institutions has been and still is. And women have always played important roles in the church, I don’t want to demean those. And they have played even more important roles in the Bible. But we rarely think of them as autonomous beings apart from their male companions in a story. Like the stereotype of the male youth pastor, this too, is a problem.
When my youth read the Bible, I want them to know that the women in the Bible were strong as hell.
Not only did they often have to measure their worth by whether or not they were able to give birth (which, let’s be honest, was sometimes the man’s fault), but they lived in societies where they were second-class citizens (just read the Bible, it’s everywhere; or Judges… that’s some messed up stuff, y’all). Even queens had to share their husbands with other women because it was the man’s choosing (just check out the Old Testament!). They lived in a world where women were even pitted against each other for survival (think Sarai and Hagar). Their lives were not easy.
These women went through some serious crap. Just like so many of the women today. Can someone say “equal pay?”
So, next time you think of a woman in the Bible, or a youth pastor, or any other stereotype, go break that stereotype for yourself and for the rest of the world. It’s the stereotypes that cause me to receive stares of wonderment when I tell folks I’m a youth-pastor-person because I’m not matching the stereotype in their heads.
So, go try and see if you can find a different image for what a pastor should be, or a CEO, or a firefighter, or a professional athlete, or a woman in the Bible. Better yet, go out and break those stereotypes.