Saturday, September 26, 2009

You look too young ... be a pastor. As the saying goes, if I had a nickel for every time I've heard that! It was more difficult to hear when I was a 25 year old student local pastor. I didn't have years of experience to point to back then. Today, as a 34 year old ordained elder, I take it as a compliment. Or, at least, I try to. It is still a little frustrating having moved to a new church ~ in my 10th year of ministry ~ to be asked one of these questions:

"Is this your first church?"
"Are you a recent graduate?"

(To be clear, I don't hear this from my congregation as much as from members of the community, other churches, ecumenical clergy colleagues and people I meet on the street!)

And, truth be told, I don't think I look like a 25 year old seminary student any more. I think I look pretty much all of my 34 years ~ with a few gray hairs peeking out here and there. In fact, I've had people ask me if I have children at the local high school which, technically, I could have.

So this makes me wonder.... How old does one have to look to look old enough to be a pastor? And, not to open up a can of worms, but.... Do my younger male colleagues get this comment as much as my younger female colleagues do? Does this comment just reflect the stereotypes of what a pastor is 'supposed to' look like? And what is a pastor supposed to look like anyway?

For now, I am glad that I can say 'thank you' with a smile when I hear such a comment. "Thank you. I've actually been a pastor for about 10 years. This is the third church I've served."

But I still wonder what's behind it.


molly said...

I am SO with you. I get this stuff all the time. And a look of shock at the news that this is my 9th year.

pastorbecca said...

Amen to that!

I do know *some* young male pastors who do get asked how old they are/comments about being young. Without nit-picking too much, I haven't heard a male colleague report the comment "you seem *too young* to be a pastor," which I think might be a bit more specific to us ladies.

I've heard people describe my mother in law as a 'young pastor.' I'm guessing that you look like a young pastor until you are about as old as the person speaking. ;)

This is my second appointment, three months into my sixth year. I'm 30, and my gray hairs don't show so much unless the light is just so. But the four year old daughter should, I think, verify that I'm old enough to be a mom, so why not a pastor?