I've heard a question asked by curious and well-meaning board members, camp directors, youth pastors, and leaders when hiring a female youth leader or speaker.
How will she relate to the guys?
Maybe you've asked this question yourself or you've had to answer it?
But before we chat it up, I think we've gotta raise the "it's really not about us at all, but all about sharing a very unforgettable and connecting Jesus with others regardless of where we come from or what skin we're in" flag. So now that's it's waving. Here's my take on the topic.
I understand that I'm not a guy.
But I really do believe that God has given us what we need, when we need it.
And I know that God gave my own male youth pastor an ability to relate to me in a way that ultimately changed the trajectory of my life.
I don't think he took a special class in seminary. I'm not sure if he went to seminary.
I don't think it was because he had an awesome wife (even though he did).
I don't think it was because he always made sure to have the door open when we talked (he also was great at that).
I do think he was great at listening.
I do think he was passionate about following Jesus.
I do think he was purposeful about putting me in places where I could experience the hope of Christ.
God has called us to love people.
And love doesn't know gender.
And when I speak at different places and I'm encountering new teenagers, new faces, new leaders, and differing ideas of what it means to teach, preach, or to share, it's then that I'm tempted to wonder if someone is weighing out my "connect factor".
I'm tempted to think, when female youth leaders approach me to tell me how much their girls have LOOOVEEED having a female speaker, that maybe I'm only connecting with half of the audience. Maybe I'm robbing myself of a bit of joy that is meant to bless rather than cause me to question when I let my mind run down the temptation trail?
But temptation is different from actually believing something. And for me it ends right there. Temptation is cut off in the presence of an audacious belief that God has called and is calling us to connect with people in love--calling us to be with--calling us to share His Word--calling us to give up weak desire for strong and completely crazy amounts of trust.
After the last session of the middle school retreat I was speaking at this weekend I felt like God had set up a little affirmation station just for me. The kind you might find at a youth workers convention, the ones with little candy bars and sketched out notes reminding you that you're awesome and loved and on the right track.
It came from the voices of the male leaders too, even those who may have been a little uncomfortable approaching a female, thanked me and I could see it in their eyes that they knew we were "same team" and that I understood them and that I could smell what they were stepping in as they loaded up vans and buses to travel home with kids who may or may not have taken showers in three days. I always feel like I'm the one who is blessed most to meet and experience new people--to get to see new and unchartered parts of God's image all over the country and world.
Sometimes I can't believe that I get to do this.
And hearing back from teenagers who wrestled with God's Word over an intensely fun and focused weekend is my favorite part. And the middle school guys didn't let me down...
Thanks for sharing this weekend. Thanks for being yourself. You're a great talker. You're good at telling stories. You made me think. We're going to go back to our youth group and be the leaders now. Will you take a picture with our purple monkey? Those are some sweet hater blockers...or do you call them stunna shades in Florida? I really like your sweater. Do you like the Beastie Boys? Can I have your number? (ummmm, no! But I'd be happy to sign your shirt and fist bump you outta here!)
The only tangible dream that I was given as a child was to become a model. To pose in print ads or walk a runway wearing designer clothes. And there were moments when I was tempted to believe that that dream couldn't happen once I became a Christian. I'm so glad that I didn't let temptation keep me from becoming a supermodel anyway--the kind who wears Jesus and walks with people down the runways of their lives--and stops to take pictures with purple monkeys in her stunna shades.