BFAM 330 Philosophy Paper

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Jane Vanderburgh

April 11, 2014

Christian Teaching

A Personal Philosophy of Christian Teaching

All youth groups need a female youth minister; it is absolute necessity as teenage girls begin their transition to adulthood. Having left the youth group stage a few short years ago, and serving as a female youth intern just last summer, I can certainly attest to the inescapable need to having a strong, female mentor presence in the youth ministry. Although there is a valid argument that females should not be the lead youth minister in charge of a coed youth group, I believe that the girls in the youth group could certainly benefit from a female role model in the group.

In the youth group I was raised in, we did not have a female youth minister until the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. Our male youth minister was in his mid-30s at the height of my youth ministry experience and I never felt a personal close connection with him. Although this was not the case with every girl, I never had the feeling of a church home in the youth group. Whenever I had a spiritually low point during high school or needed someone to talk to for advice, I never felt close enough to him to seek his counsel when I wanted it the most. This is a common feeling more and more girls are beginning to address in youth groups and is just one of the many examples of why a female youth minister is important.

I feel a female youth minister for the girls is essential is because they are so much more relatable and understanding than males are. Every adult female was once a teenage girl who, more or less, struggled with similar ideas and beliefs that teenagers struggle with today. Having a male youth minister teach a coed class, much less an all-female class, about self-image is much different than a female teacher. Males cannot relate to a girls struggle with acceptance and self-worth nearly as well as someone whos been there before can. A girl is much more likely to approach a female role model about a struggle or low point, whether it is something as trivial as a break-up or something as serious as suicide, than she is a male role model in her life. Whether it is simply rescuing the girl from the sadness of a breakup or saving her life from her own hands, a female youth minister is much more effective, in most cases, for these situations than a male. I think Newton addresses this issue in chapter five when he writes of how to see texts from the students positions. In the chapter summary of the book, he accurately summarizes his thoughts by saying, ...teachers will learn how to explore the things struggle with emotionally, intellectually, volitionally, and behaviorally connected to the Big Idea (viii). Not only can a female youth minister relate more to a girl outside of a classroom setting with life issues, she can more accurately teach a lesson to a girls class from their eyes than a male can. For example, a female is better equipped to teach a class on Mary and Martha and how to give up this world for Jesus rather than focused on being busy to please him to a girls class rather than a male could. Actually, Im not sure if a male could appropriately teach that class at all! Classes that are more geared towards edifying a girls relationship with Christ should be taught by a female who has been well-trained and well-experienced concerning the materials and present day struggles.

On page 164 in Heart Deep Teaching, Newton writes, is possible to teach the Bible to all age groups so that they discover and engage in the central principle of the text and learn how to apply it to their lives. I strongly believe that the only appropriate way a girl can fully discover and engage the meaning of a passage is if a female is teaching it. I dont mean to sound like a feminist by wording it this way, but there is only so much I can grasp when a male teaches things (I believe this statement can and is different when applied in an academic setting). A male cannot relate things to a girl as well as a female can. A male might make jokes or make the lesson easier to understand using a football example, for instance. While some girls are very learned in the sport of football and would completely understand his analogy, other girls would have absolutely no clue what he was trying to express. Meanwhile, most guys in the youth group would not understand a reference to The Bachelorette or nail polish in class that most all girls would! Teaching, regardless of the gender of the teacher, should be conducted in a way that both male and female adolescents can understand. After all, regardless of the material, the teens are usually hungering and looking for a message from the lesson. Dysktra confirms this on page 120 in Growing in the Life of Faith by saying, Adolescents invest significant energies in striving to interpret themselves and their world in a coherent, meaningful, workable, and personally satisfying ways. Students will take a message away from the lesson whether it is the lesson the teacher intended them to take away or not. Again, I believe that the only way to convey a heart-deep message to girls that they will be able to clearly understand the lesson the teacher is trying to suggest is if a female teaches it.

Although there are many benefits to having a girls youth minister, I can see the downfalls as well. One of the hardest qualifications for the job would be the marital status of the youth minister(s). It would be the most convenient situation if the male and female youth ministers were married to each other, but that is not always the case. In my personal situation back home, my male youth minister was married to another woman and the female youth minister was single. It definitely made for interesting dynamics! While this worked well with our group, it is not the best situation for every church. Another difficult factor concerning the marital status is if the male youth ministers wife, whether paid or not, is expected to fulfill the role of female youth minister. The church I interned for last summer only paid Andrew as the full-time youth minister, but his wife Amy was expected to take her personal sick days from her full-time job to go to church camp, Uplift, and semester retreats. Because of this, Amy struggled with the feeling of having two full-time jobs but only being paid for one. Although she loved the girls in the youth group, it is a burden that she was not expecting to undertake when her husband got the job. This is an important issue that should be brought up when applying.

Another weakness of a girls youth minister, and perhaps the one most mentioned, is the conservative belief that women should not be in a leadership position like this in church. A church in my hometown is extremely conservative and I can only imagine what their elders responses would be if a female applied for a youth ministry position for the girls. What I find the saddest part of this ideology is the fact that boys have a vast array of male role models they can seek advice from- elders, deacons, the preacher, youth minister, etc. while a girl has her mom and perhaps her Sunday school teachers from her elementary school days. Being a teenage girl is hard enough without the pressure and sadness of feeling alone with no one to reach out to. Besides the scary thought of such an extreme means to end, such as suicide, there is the scary possibility that the girl will fall away from church and perhaps never return if she feels as though there is no one she can rely on for help and mentoring. While teenage boys can just as easily fall away from their faith as they approach adulthood as girls can, girls have less mentors that they constantly see and are reminded of their presence and desire to help. It is a sad fact that girls feel as though they have no one in their life during some of the hardest years here on earth, and this is why I strongly believe that we still have an urgent need for female youth ministers in todays church.

Having a female youth minister working alongside a male youth minister can certainly have its pros and cons. A female can relate to teenage girls much more than a male can, and they can certainly teach a lesson in a way that will relate to girls much better than a male youth minister is able to do. However, there is the issue of marital status, whether to the male youth minister or to an active church member (or to anyone at all), that some might have an issue with. And finally, there is the more conservative issue that women should not have leadership roles such as a youth minister in the church.

While we could debate about the necessity of a female youth minister, I strongly believe in the need for one as a girl myself. Having served in both a youth group as a student, and also as a female youth minister as a church intern last summer, I am confident in my belief that it is becoming more and more of an issue churches need to address and reconsider their opinion on. If they are unable to, for a variety of reasons, churches should at least be sure there are female mentors and role models actively helping the youth group so that girls know they do not have to go through life alone or without any sage advice. We live in such an impersonal culture that teaches us to be selfish and only care about ourselves; we need to realize teenage girls struggle with their faith now more than ever, and perhaps the only way to solve that is by implementing a female youth minister who is well-equipped for the job.