I was asked to write the following article for the May 2019 edition of Life and Work. Since I know not everyone receives this magazine, I thought I would replicate it in this month’s Informer. Enjoy!
When I was first asked to write a piece reflecting on the experiences of a “young person” in ministry, it was not immediately apparent to me how my perspective differs from older colleagues. We all know the challenges currently facing the Church of Scotland, and we all have to seriously grapple with these; I suppose my situation is different in that I have longer to wrestle with these things before I start drawing on my pension.
Yet, upon further reflection, I notice that being a young person in ministry holds certain challenges. I am fortunate to have friends with whom I have journeyed since Primary School. As we meet and share with one another the joys and difficulties of the paths we have chosen, I am struck that those in other lines of work tend to have more contact with their contemporaries. Contrary to this, I have found in ministry I largely serve and relate to those of my parents’ generation and older.
In this sense, ministry as a young person can feel somewhat isolating. While the desire of any Church is to encourage greater numbers of people to engage with the Christian faith, until there is an uptake in the number of young people coming to faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ, ministry is likely to continue to feel a little lonely.
I should make two things clear.
Firstly, I am describing my context, as experienced by my extraverted personality: it is perfectly possible that the other young ministers coming into the church will experience these things differently.
Secondly, I am truly blessed to serve a congregation where age, whether mine or someone else’s, is not an issue. They are extremely supportive, and share with me the benefit of their wisdom, as I share with them my enthusiastic vision. Taken together, we hope this sets us down the path God has set out for our congregation to follow.
A final question remains: how do I, as a young person, minister to those with far more years than me? To answer, I turn to one of my favourite books of the Bible: 1st Timothy. This letter, from an older minister (Paul) to a younger one (Timothy) contains much advice which is helpful, such as the following:
12Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the
believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself
to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. (1st Timothy 4, NIVUK)
Regardless of age, I am called to set an example to all fellow followers of Jesus Christ, in my speech, conduct, love faith and purity. I am to respond to God’s call to regularly read His Word, to preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to teach others about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Whether I am young or old, if I devote myself to these things to which God has called me, then, to quote my Probation Supervisor on my final Sunday as his student, “you will not go far wrong”.