...to 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.