I had a couple of interesting conversations lately that all sort of revolve around the same theme. And really in a lot of ways I have been having this conversation for a few years with various friends in college.
I was having coffee with a friend of mine the other day. He recently took a job in a small town in the south as a youth minister. We were talking about inner city work and about what I was off to do in Detroit.
“Man, I feel like such a sell out.” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I could be doing what you’re doing. I could be off working in the inner city, but instead I am here working for this small conservative church instead.”
Again, just a few nights later the same idea came up in conversation with another friend. “I just have more respect for people that do what you do as opposed to pulpit ministers who are making 100k a year.”
All throughout undergrad we would build up certain writers and people who were out being “real Christians” and living with the poor and fighting for their rights and taking Jesus into sketchy places. Then we would bad mouth other guys who were talking about living like Christ, but were in big comfortable churches and comfortable houses.
As if one were better than the other.
But as my youth minister friend was talking to me about youth ministry I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I could never do youth ministry. I am mean, have little patience, not very careful and not very delicate (physically or verbally). I would make a terrible youth minister. My career as a youth minister would last for about ten minutes because that’s how long it takes parents to complain about something and that’s how long it would take me to tell them off.
Ministry isn’t about what qualifies as “real” ministry or “not real” ministry. It’s all about what you’re gifted for. I am at a time and place where I am gifted for inner city work where I can live in an attic and go for 12 hours or more a day. My friend is gifted to work with kids in small churches. And those 100k preachers are gifted to lead congregations in that way, which I just am not right now.
It’s not about where we are doing the work of Jesus. It’s about the work of Jesus. And I understand that some skill sets come with better pay, but that doesn’t ake them any more or less worthy of appreciation and respect.