As a woman in youth ministry, I face some unique challenges.
I wish that wasn't true, but it is.
Most of the time, these unique challenges no longer bother me. I'm confident in my call. I wholeheartedly believe that I'm fully using each and every gift God has given me in my role as a youth worker. And I'm blessed to serve in a congregation where the gifts of both men and women alike are valued.
Nevertheless, some days, the unique challenges of being a woman in youth ministry get the better of me.
Each time I've been on the job hunt, it's frustrated me to know there are churches I need not apply to – not because I'm not well qualified for the position but simply because as a female, they won't hire me.
I've been irritated when during staff meetings at a former church, as the token female, I'd be asked to speak on behalf of all women. (Because of course we women all think alike).
I've felt alone when at youth ministry conferences, I've heard few if any female presenters.
I've been annoyed when I've been called “abrasive” or accused of “PMS-ing” simply for leading or giving an honest opinion.
And on those times when I've preached in big church and been told, “It's good for your girls to see you up there”, I've longed for the day when it won't be a big deal for girls to hear a woman preach.
Having been faced with these unique challenges time and time again, I was thrilled when Gina Abbas' book, A Woman In Youth Ministry released this fall. To my knowledge, there hasn't been a book published specifically for women in youth ministry since Kara Powell, Megan Hutchinson, and Heather Flies wrote Help! I'm a Woman in Youth Ministry!: Practical Empowerment for Your Calling and Your Life a decade ago. To say Gina's book fills a void is an understatement. In her words, “I want to read a book about being a female youth pastor that was actually written by a female youth pastor. So when I couldn't find a recent one, I decided to write one instead.”
There are so many things I loved about Gina's book. It's highly practical – dealing with a multitude of issues ranging from how to work with men, to effective networking, to navigating maternity leave. Even so, it's also highly personal. It's written by someone who speaks not from the confines of academia, but rather from the trenches of youth ministry. As such, it's relatable. I chuckled as I read Gina's description of “walking with her husband through the vendor exhibit hall at youth ministry conferences” only to have people assume her husband was the youth pastor because I've been there, too. And I cried as I read Gina's stories of heartbreak and frustration, of disappointment and loneliness.
Throughout the book, Gina's words are honest and at times, raw. They both challenge and encourage. In the process, they make you feel just a little less alone.
More than just being a book about women in ministry, A Woman in Youth Ministry is a book about leadership. That's why in my official endorsement of it, I said “Don't be fooled by the title. This book isn't just for women. It's also for male youth workers who want to partner with their female colleagues more effectively in order to do God's kingdom work.”
So do yourself a favor. Regardless of whether you're male or female, if you're in youth ministry, pick up a copy of A Woman in Youth Ministry and read it today.