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A Seminarian's Journey

Young adult, child of God

The challenge and blessing of entering the ministry as a young adult

By Lynn Hasselbarth

Lynn Hasselbarth

My favorite yoga pose is balasana, or child’s pose. It’s a crouched position, much like kneeling down to pray. The chest rests over folded knees, arms stretched outward or tucked alongside the torso, with the forehead or a cheek resting heavily on the ground.

In this huddled fetal-like position, you are utterly defenseless, and yet there is a feeling of safety. I have been using this pose a lot lately—to center myself as I complete my last semester in seminary and look toward the sweeping changes that lie just around the corner.

As a young adult entering the ministry, I have a nagging desire to justify myself. As I strive to prove my faith and abilities to pastor nominating committees, I find myself at times forgetting who I am and whose I am. When I return to this resting position, this child’s pose, I feel a sense of surrender. It is here that I remind myself that I am first and foremost a child of God.

As I pursue a call to ministry, I have often felt insecure about my age. At 31, I sometimes wish I could throw on another decade to convince others of my competence. I can be chatty and easily excitable—characteristics that I’ve tried to temper during conversations with prospective congregations. And rest assured, during interviews my hair will be pulled back tightly in a neat twist with the hope that this will convey an air of maturity and professionalism.

As a first-call pastor, I am likely to be the youngest person sitting around the table at session meetings. I will be ministering to families during times of loss, though I myself have not endured any significant tragedies. While I am just starting to see a few faint lines across my forehead, I haven’t collected enough lived experiences to create those deeper signs of joy and sorrow.

Yet, despite all these worries about my age, I believe that my perspective as a young adult might also be a blessing for the community I am called to serve. I am eager to learn from parishioners—for them to share in the leadership and ministry of the congregation as well as spur my own spiritual growth. I am prepared to journey with a congregation rather than insist on a preset plan.

I’m also comfortable with making mistakes. I am bound to spill grape juice on the clean white linen, stumble through my first few sermons, and get lost on the way to the local nursing home.  But most of all, by embracing my newness to the role of pastor, I am freed to be a disciple rather than attempt to be an expert. When leaders serve with a spirit of discipleship, they invite all to participate in God’s call and mission.

During a recent interview, I was asked how I handle change, considering I’ll be graduating, getting married, and serving a new congregation all in a few months time. “Well, I’m used to change!” I declared with ease.

Over the past nine years, like many young adults, I’ve moved five times, held three jobs, and left the country on more than one occasion to “find myself.” I see this period of exploration as one of profound discernment, born of a willingness to embark on new paths—skills that I will draw upon as I enter long-term ministry

Even the most established ministry involves constant change and adapting to new realities. It requires a readiness to follow the Spirit even when the path seems unclear. Ministry is an ongoing experiment that asks us to pick up and go so that we can better serve God and neighbor. And as a young adult, I thrive on this type of spontaneity.

At this stage, my life has yet to develop a consistent pattern. As that pattern emerges, I know that it will be shaped by the community I am called to serve. And in turn, I hope that my age will no longer be a liability, but a license to embrace new directions and possibilities.

Lynn Hasselbarth is a student at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and a candidate for ministry.

May 2014 cover

order the special issue Guide to Young adult ministry and read more articles like this one