This month, we asked our bloggers what it’s like to be the youngest Presbyterian in the room. Here’s what they shared.
Do you lie about your age?
Most women who think about lying about their age wish they could round down, but not me!
As someone who went straight from college to seminary and entered ordained ministry at the age of 25, my temptation has always been to add a couple of years to my age. I know I am not alone among younger clergy, particularly young women, in having this secret desire.
Now that I have the vast wisdom of 29 years behind me, I realize of course that my early desire to lie about my age really said more about my own anxiety about being the youngest person in the room than it did about anyone else. Yes, I often got – and still get – comments about how young I look. Yes, my husband is sometimes mistaken by outsiders for a member of the youth group. And yes, I have gotten a lot of surprised looks when I introduce myself in the community as the pastor of my church.
Things have changed as I have begun to own the strength of my unique position. Not every pastor can build their church a new website with ease. Not every pastor gets to be a walking example of the power of intergenerational relationships. Not every pastor can say, “If the last time we evaluated that program was before I was born, it may be time to take another look!” I get to do a very special job. I get to represent the future of the church. I have permission – in fact, I have the expectation – to try to push the church forward.
I am often one of the only people under 30 that the members of my church interact with on a regular basis. Just as isolating is the fact that out in the world, among people my age, I am usually in the minority as a regular churchgoer, much less a pastor. It often feels like I do not entirely belong in either group.
Thankfully I am constantly reminded of the privilege of being a person who can cross these boundaries. It is like being bilingual — allowing me to translate between generations who do not speak the same language. I tell the young woman my age who cuts my hair all about my church every month and she brags to her co-workers how cool it is that one of her clients is pastor. I help members of my congregation understand social media and figure out how to use their new smart phones. At the gym, I talk to my trainer about the theological questions she is embarrassed to ask her older pastor. At church, I have learned to gently tease folks my grandparents’ age about all of the negative assumptions they make about my generation by reminding them that I am also a part of that group.
Increasingly, I find that the more comfortable I am with my age and with my role as a pastor, the more the people around me are comfortable. I still don’t appreciate the raised eyebrows, but I also don’t feel the desire to lie about my age anymore. Maybe wisdom really does come with age… or maybe I had it in me all along.
CAITLIN THOMAS DEYERLE is pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, where she lives with her husband James, their cat Calvin and a very rebellious puppy named Molly.