This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Where have all the Mennonite youth pastors gone?

In my first post, I mentioned that my wife and I are attending Living Water Community Church, a Mennonite congregation in Chicago.

This spring Living Water began the process of looking for a new youth pastor.

This week I talked with a friend who is on the search committee and he told me that out of 40 candidates who have applied for the position, there were no Mennonites and only one had any Mennonite background.

As one of only four or five cradle Mennonites in a congregation of convinced Anabaptists, I feel embarrassed.

Living Water is a young, thriving community with a vision for urban Anabaptism and a strong commitment to Rogers Park, the most diverse community in Chicago (footnote).

It would seem like an ideal opportunity for a Mennonite pastor to explore what (insert Mennonite mission statement here) means in an urban context. Here’s an excerpt from the job description:

Who we’re looking for—someone with:

  • A heart for young people and the ability to build discipling relationships with them.
  • A life committed to Jesus Christ.
  • Three years children/youth ministry experience (urban, multicultural experience a plus).
  • Leadership and team-building skills.
  • Some coursework in youth ministry, the Bible, or Christian education (Bachelor’s degree a plus). Music/worship and bilingual (Spanish or Khmer) skills would be great.
  • A willingness to endorse the Mennonite Confession of Faith, which includes actively witnessing to peace.

It seems like a perfect fit for a Mennonite candidate. So why aren’t any of you interested?

Perhaps its worth looking at the broader context of Mennonite youth ministry. This is an area with which I have little experience. What is the vision for youth ministry in the Mennonite church? Is it distinctive from any other Christian youth group?

In the May 16 issue of The Mennonite, Jacob Yordy shared some of the ways he finds himself thinking and acting differently from those around them. Among other things this included a strong sense of where his ultimate loyalty lies:

Army representatives come to my high school toting bags of impressive trinkets and promising young men they will be honored and remembered. Amid this pressure to be a citizen who puts his or her country first, members of my Mennonite church and other churches from all over the country put God first instead.

How does the Mennonite church nurture young people like Jacob and encourage them to think differently from those around them?

My memories of Mennonite Youth Fellowship, or MYF as we called it, are of a place where I could feel safe asking questions about faith and having them taken seriously. I have many memories of lively discussions on the old sofas in the MYF room. These conversations were critical for me in my faith journey into adulthood. Our congregation didn’t hire a separate youth minister, but instead had a couple who were volunteer youth sponsors from the congregation. Perhaps this is a common pattern among Mennonite congregations that has limited the pool of youth pastors.

This is an area where I have lots of questions and few answers. I’d welcome feedback and responses from Mennonites out there with experience in this area.

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