In the local church, no role is as misunderstood as that of the youth pastor—and understandably so. While other pastors tend to sport suits and attend an abundance of seemingly important meetings, youth pastors get to rock skinny jeans, provide counseling sessions over games of Ping-Pong, and count playing four hours of Xbox as a “successful day’s work.” It’s not exactly what most people have in mind when they think “clergy”—or, you know, “real job.”

But few people realize the unique hardships the horde of 20-something Bible college graduates heading up the youth department face as they shoulder the Sisyphean task of herding students through their teenage years spiritually (and physically) intact. Societal wisdom tells us that the leader of an organization—in this case, the senior pastor—should receive the greatest financial compensation. Before “amen”-ing in agreement, though, consider the particularly heavy cross of the humble youth pastor:

The Stench: Music festival Port-a-Potties? A county landfill set ablaze? Raw chicken breasts slowly rotting inside a residential central heating system? Yes, these things may reek, but they’re all like a freshly popped can of tennis balls compared to junior high students: the most olfactorily offensive beings in all of creation. Preteens either prance around unaware of the fact they are emitting the noxious stench of a recently exhumed corpse, or they drench their bodies in enough toxic Axe deodorant to murder a small horse. Idealistic youth staffers were promised the aroma of Christ, but instead they spend their free time exorcising the smell of sulfur from the church’s 15-passenger van.

Terrible ...

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