It must be the season. I am being called for many references every week. One of my students who recently graduated has been interviewing in a few different places. He is amazing and I am certain will find a great place to serve.
One of the churches where he interviewed in this past month wants to invite him to come for the next step of the process to becoming their youth pastor. The problem is that he was turned off after the interview. You see, they asked him how he would help the youth in their church to stay out of trouble and be seen but not heard. And they were not kidding. I hear these kinds of stories all of the time.
My student called me asking how he should tell this church he is not interested in moving forward with them. My first thought was not terribly generous. I want to tell this church to set free the young people whose spiritual and emotional lives are being stifled and stunted. To set free the young people of their church and invite them to go where they are actually wanted and can explore their faith and grow. I wanted to call this church and tell them they are a part of the reason for the rapid decline in the church and they have no place in seeking to inflict their destructive philosophy on others. I wanted to call this church and tell them they are abusing the precious youth God has placed in their care.
In a more realistic moment, our conversation touched on what to say when you really need (& want) a job in an economy that is less than forgiving. I am increasingly having the conversation with graduates or near graduates who simultaneously are bright, energetic ministers but wondering if they will be required to leave their convictions and training behind to take a ministry position. They are being faced with interview questions that fly in the face of what they hold dear and run contrary to what they believe theologically and ministerially.
They are struggling. They want jobs but don't want to sell their soul to take one. Their response at this time has overwhelmingly been to walk away from church based ministries. I am impressed that they are living out their theological convictions. But what happens when they no longer have the luxury, for whatever reason, to turn down jobs due to these types of differences between potential employers and their own convictions?