I recently interviewed to be the Minister to Students and Families at Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. I was sold on the church from the very beginning but was a little hesitant about the role. I love working with youth and am in awe of all they have to teach me and the Church, but pastoring teens is a big job and so very important. I worry often that I don’t have what it takes to care for them well. So when I was officially offered the job here at 2BC, I had one request. I asked for the title of my role to be changed from Minister to Students and Families to Minister with Students and Families. I know, I know… this is such a small change. What difference does one preposition make?
The truth is, this one little preposition serves as a guide for me, shaping the way I live out my role as a minister, and truthfully, taking some of the pressure off. I always remember the function of a preposition by using the old adage “anywhere a mouse can go.” And when I need more, I sing the Schoolhouse Rock song: “Busy prepositions, always on the go, like a bunch of busy bees, floating pollen on the breeze… in between the action, stating clearly to your satisfaction, the location and direction.” That’s a big job for such common, ordinary words. Maybe it’s not so silly to want to pick just the right preposition for my job title after all.
Youth ministry is definitely a busy job and it seems like I am always on the go—from impromptu ice cream outings with youth to fall retreats, from weekly Bible Studies to youth camp and everything in between. I pray my buzzing from one place to the next spreads the hope and love of Christ in a way that grows bigger than I can imagine.
And isn’t that my function as a minister? To stand in between the action, stating as clearly as I can, the location and direction; pointing out places where I already see God at work in the world and where God might be calling us to go. Despite the busy buzzing, I am not the action. I stand in between, providing opportunities for the church to join in the task of bringing about God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
That’s a big job for such a common, ordinary person. Maybe it’s not so silly to want to pick just the right preposition for my job title after all. Ministry isn’t something I do to youth and their families or around them or even near them. It’s something I do with them—a task we do together. Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, “For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9, NRSV). Together we cultivate relationships across all ages and make space for God to construct something magnificent.
May we all find ways to do this ministry thing together. May we walk with each other, ministering to a hurting world, beyond the walls of the church, in spite of the challenges, amidst the suffering and the marginalized. May we be busy bees pollenating the world with God’s love, pointing out the places we see God at work in the world. May we go together, anywhere a mouse can go, confident that we are accompanied by Immanuel, God-with-us, who goes into the small, seemingly ordinary places and calls us to follow.
Brittany Stillwell is minister with students and families at Second Baptist Church, Little Rock, Arkansas.