Rev. Jill Duffield
Senior Pastor

Lisa, Donna, and I met this week and began our conversation with the fact that it felt like Groundhog Day, as in that movie where the guy keeps reliving the same day over and over and over again. We were yet again discussing the search for a youth director after, yet again, another of our few leads had not gotten any traction. We’ve posted the position, repeatedly, on secular and church job sites. We’ve talked, repeatedly, to professors, seminary staff, pastors, conference center leaders, campus ministers and others. We’ve used the denomination’s “leadership connection.” We’ve engaged a headhunting firm. We’ve worked with the Center for Youth Ministry Training. We’ve prayed about this, repeatedly, in our staff prayers. Over the past year and four months we’ve interviewed a total of four people and reached out to dozens more. And yet…groundhog day.

Now, I trust God’s providence and know God’s timing is not ours, but we are past time to have this key position on our staff filled and filled with someone with a passion for youth ministry. We’ve wondered with you about the need to raise the salary in this hiring market. We’ve wondered with you about the possibility of creating an associate pastor position for youth ministry. We’ve wondered with you why someone doesn’t see what a great church this is and jump at the possibility of being a part of it. We’ve wondered with you if there are things we’ve not tried, places we’ve not looked, possibilities we’ve not considered. We’re not taking anything off the table, and I honestly don’t know what will make the difference.

I can say for sure that we’ve been working diligently to help speed up the Holy Spirit. I can say for sure this role is an unwavering priority for the staff and the church. I can say for sure that all of the existing staff has stepped up and done all they could to ensure that youth programming is strong, and our youth know we care about them. (A huge shout out to Lisa and Donna! And also to Newton and Rachel!) I can say for sure that our youth committee has gone above and beyond to support staff and youth alike. I can say for sure we’ve been gifted with several amazing interns over the course of this season. (Nolan and Mac, you give us great hope for the future of the church!) I can say for sure that despite not having a youth director we have strong momentum coming off three fantastic summer trips, a solid group already signed up to participate in confirmation, and a calendar filled with opportunities for faith and relationships to grow in the coming year. I can say for sure that we won’t stop searching, praying, thinking, and working to discover the person God is calling to this position.

I can also say for sure that we need YOUR help. First, we need you to be in prayer about this. Second, we need you to ask people in your circles if they know of any potential candidates who might be called to youth ministry. (Recent graduates with a heart for Jesus and youth. Teachers who love the Lord and the Lord’s teenagers and want a more flexible workplace. Seminary grads who want to serve in a place that offers a lot of support and a lot of opportunity to experiment and create. Others that come to your mind.) Third we need you to walk alongside our youth and their parents in whatever ways you are equipped to do so.

In our tradition, we don’t have godparents because the congregation takes on those responsibilities. The entire congregation promises to nurture in the faith those who are being baptized. One of the ways we fulfill that baptismal promise is to be present with and for our youth. Now is an opportunity for our youth to know how seriously we take these promises.

I long for our youth to have “their” person on our staff. However, what I long for even more is for each and every one of them to feel seen and known and valued and loved by ALL of us. I don’t just want a youth director, I want a congregation that nurtures, supports, and encourages our youth. While I don’t know when we will have the former, I believe, with your help, we can have the latter right now.