This post is part of a blog series on Pomomusings, discussing pastoral identity. To read about the series, as well as get a full schedule of participants, click here.
Flow More, Force Less
A good friend of mine often says, “Flow more, force less.” I like this saying and adhere to it in my ministry. I think rigidity can damage ministry; the Church changes and so does God’s call. We need to be open to that call and willing to go with it. Sometimes God speaks through the stomping of feet, and other times it’s through the total failure of a game. Be ready to adjust and willing to adapt.
Sixteen years ago I was a teenager, living on the streets, hopping trains and hitchhiking around. If you would have asked what I would be doing at 32, I would not have answered, “youth ministry.” I am not ordained, but I am seeking ordination. I don’t know what denomination I will ultimately end up in, but I do know that I want to be ordained clergy.
I am currently the youth coordinator for a UCC Church and one of the youth pastors for a multi-denominational youth collective. I love my job! It is interesting to see the broad scope of Christianity within this group and the greater Christian community. The denominations that I work with, even though we share many beliefs, have differences. It is important to accept these differences and embrace them as a part of our greater community.
As a student and someone heading to seminary I see myself as a sort of spiritual “pan-handler,” continuously searching for that nickel of wisdom. Working with multiple denominations I am constantly able to put out my tin cup and gather from this collective wisdom. I think more pastors are doing this and finding it very useful in their ministry.
For me it is important for a pastor to be a listener and a friend. Pastors should help the conversations we have at church become the ones that we are having at home; with friends and family, in a way that makes being “at church” move from 52 days a year to 365 days a year. You can take off February 29th if you want.
Pastors should be constant reminders that God is always with us in all that we do. We are surrounded by distractions in the world; social media, sports, school, music, television, work and many other things; pastors today need to be able to relate to these distractions and help people navigate through them while reminding people who they are.
For me I want to provide the youth and families I work with a Christianity that is for everyone and accepts everyone. As a youth pastor I pray that if my youth need someone to talk to or vent to they can find that in me. I don’t want any of them to feel unheard, or to feel the need to run away or escape this place. We should be providing a comfortable place for everyone, where questions, concerns and thoughts are accepted and listened to.
Our society is constantly changing and it’s an interesting time to be involved in the church. I look forward to being ordained but in what capacity, that is something only God knows. I feel that we need to flow more and force less, as the times change so do the needs of those who seek Christ.
Christopher Sohl is the Youth Coordinator at Ashland First Congregational United Church of Christ and one of the youth pastors for the Ashland Youth Collective. He loves playing outside in the rivers and on the rocks in Southern Oregon and of course working with youth. His favorite scripture story is Jesus calming the storm.