4 Thing You Should Be Thankful For In Youth Ministry

It’s a time to be thankful, and if you are a Youth Pastor, you should get on your knees and thank God for these four things.

That there is such as thing called Youth Ministry

Youth Ministry has changed and morphed over the years. Youth Ministry goes as far back as the early 1900’s with Christian Endeavor where kids took ownership of there ministry and endeavored to live a Christian life. fast forward to the 40’s where Youth For Christ (YFC) was have huge rallies to introduce teens to Christ and in the 50’s pivoted more to a club format. It was the in the 70’s with the post Jesus Movement of the 60’s and other factor, where the church started to hire youth pastors to reach and disciple teenagers.

We are the benefactors of a long history of youth ministry. Sure, if we did not have the professionalization of youth ministry we would still be ministering to youth in some way or fashion, but we should always be thankful that youth ministry has morphed into a valuable role in the church.

That God would call us to minister to this group

I am thankful that God loves young people. I see this in scripture when God heard Hagar’s cry in Genesis 21:16-18. God heard the cry of a mother and child and God responded. I was 17 years old when I felt God called me to youth ministry.

I had great youth pastors and camp counselors in my life who showed me what it meant to love young people. It was the Blue Like Jazz Effect. I saw how much they loved ministering to me and other teens and it resonated with me. The final call came when I was debating what I wanted to do after high school My choices were social work, professional bowler (I had a 143 average at 14) and youth pastor. Tough choices, right?

It was that year a missionary from Africa came and spoke at our church. At the end of the service there was a prayer line and I went up for prayer. The missionary prayed for me and I started to walk aways when he called me back. He said, “Have you felt a calling to ministry?” God nailed me and confirmed my calling and 26 years later, here I am and I am so thankful that God called me to minister to young people. Let’s be thankful for the call of God.

That there was a church who was willing to take a chance on us.

I took my first position at 22 years old. I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed but I had passion. I had worked at six churches over the years and I am thankful to each one of them for taking a chance one me. I was not too thankful for getting fired from two of them, but I am still thankful they too a chance on me.

I take chances now on young pastors in my community who seek my advice. These young men are hot messes who’re working out what kind of leaders they want to be, but I would not trade the opportunity because someone took a chance on me and poured into my life. Let’s be thankful, maybe even send a card, to those who took a chance on hiring us or putting us in a leadership position.

For students who would bother to show up

Close your eyes and see your youth group in front of you. How many of them are made to come to midweek and how many choose to come? Now, look at the those kids who choose to come. Why do they come? They could be anywhere, home, at a friends, etc. but they are here with you. Some come because they sense your love for them. Some because they are looking for God. No matter why they’re at youth, they are, there with you, and they come every week.

We should be thankful for every kid, church kids and fringe kids because who they are now is not who they will be and who they will be could involve us. What a privilege. What a joy. Maybe we should all take time to verbally thank God for every kid in our groups because they do not have to be there.

Side Note: I am thankful for all of you. You read my stuff, some of you buy my stuff, and many of you share my stuff. Thanks for hanging with me in my ups and downs and being a part of this blog, a community where I can share my thoughts. God bless you, your family and ministry this Thanksgiving.

Question: What are you thankful for about your youth ministry? Let me know at thedproject@me.com

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Youth Pastors Are Lazy, And Four Other Lies

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I am counting this as my tribute to, you, the Youth Pastor for Pastor Appreciation Day. Why? Because many of you did not feel appreciated. Some of you barely got a pat on the back or maybe a back handed compliment. Granted, youth worker status has grown over the years I keep hearing stories of  small minded, small hearted churches who want something for nothing.

So, here are some of the lies that have been propagated over the years (one caveat, some of these are true of the smallest percent of youth workers. Let’s not paint a broad brush)

Youth Pastors are lazy 

This is one I heard out of the gate. I made a commitment early on to the the hardest working youth pastor out there. No one would be able to point there finger at me and say, “H doesn’t do anything”. I stand by that commitment today. Youth Pastors are not lazy. In fact, beside the pastor, they may be the busiest person in the church? Why? Beause stuff gets dumped on their plate.

We need you to run social media

We need you to drive the bus

We need you to run sound

Sound familiar? (Be sure to read my 25 Hats Every Youth Pastor Wears for roles we fill)

We get many of the jobs we’re given because we have the most energy and most know how.

Sound like lazy to you?

Youth Pastors are immature

This is only partially true. Think of the group we work with? They like things like Adventure Time, Anime, and a hundred other things that we try to connect with students over. Maybe what people perceive as childishness is more like child-likeness. Jesus bent down to hug a child. Some older youth workers, like myself, have to bend down to relate and to receive the average teen. Do we care about every cartoon and new fad to come along. No. Some younger ones do not either.

Now, if your church has hired someone between 20 and 25, you have a person whose brain, biologically isn’t even fully developed. There is going to be some immaturity and some growing pains. Youth Workers are in the trenches and are wear angels fear to tread. Be thankful it’s not you going to stand before an audience of tough critics and pray for those who do.

Youth Pastors are always in trouble 

This is also partially true but only because we may be the last risk takers in the church. Yes, I’ve heard the complaints about how we use culture and how worldly we are. That aside, we are mostly in trouble for reaching the unreachable. We want kids who have never heard or understood the gospel before and to receive Christ as Savior.

I’ve gotten in trouble for ministering the “trench coat gang” back n the day. Ive gotten in trouble for skaters as if I invented the skateboard and handed it out to every kid in the neighborhood.

Yes, we’re in trouble, but youth pastors,  we should be in trouble for all the right reasons and not for

  • Always being late to staff meeting
  • Never cleaning the van after we use it
  • End our youth meeting too late

These things are too small and insignificant to get in trouble over. Let’s save all the trouble for the most important thing, reaching students no one else wants.

Youth Pastors only care about the youth ministry

Yes, youth pastors can become myopic and have tunnel vision, but what do you expect? Most youth workers do not attend an adult Sunday School because they are busy teaching one. The are not part of a small group because they are teaching one. They only have roles and responsibilities that are for geared toward youth ministry. Maybe adults are afraid of us. We are mutants who can communicate with teenagers. We are not allowed in board meetings or special meetings to help steer the church because….. Right, that’s what I thought.

You can’t pay a youth pastor for caring about youth. We would do that anyway. It’s in our DNA. If a church will expand the roles a youth worker  into credible areas of responsibility, they may care more about the rest of the church and actually have some good ideas and possible solutions.

Youth Pastors are rebellious 

This is 100% true. But we are not rebellious against church authority, or the Bible, or people, we are rebellious again averageness. We are rebellious against hypocrisy. We want the “real church” to step up and step forward. Why have a generation of NONES (those who claim no religious” affiliation said that they do not want to be part of a church? For the same reasons. Most of  them are not rebelling against God, they are rebelling again religion.

Many Youth Pastors have become a part of the NONES. They quit and never went back. I was almost one of those many years ago. Now, as many youth pastors do, we fight from the inside. We prayerfully rebel against the onslaught of negativity, conformity. and apathy and teach our students to walk in the steps of our Savior who did the same.

I salute you youth workers. Thank you for

Giving up a portion of your salary every week to fund the youth ministry because the church won’t give you a budget.

Taking the heat for that kid when everyone else wanted him gone.

Loving kids who do not love you back.

The list could go on and on but I think you get it. I appreciate you and I fight for you and by your side every day.

Any other lies you can mention? Leave them in the comments below.

Falling Into The Right Hands

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If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. I John 3:20

Do you beat yourself up over ever little thing? Do you have this false sense of perfection you are trying to achieve and every little thing that impedes your journey towards that frustrates you? You say, “If I were just more … I ‘d be better off”? Me too. This is no way to live and enjoy the life has given us.

The Apostle John actually cuts us some slack here. He’s been pretty raw when it comes to what it means to know God, abide in Christ, and shares the measure of what it means to know and not know God. It’s rough on the soul. Like an horror movie that is relentless and we finally see our hero or heroine catch a break or get the upper hand, John gives us verse 20.

God is greater than our hearts, God is not condemning us. Jesus said,

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17

God is greater. He knows everything. Every false motive; every hateful thought, but God is graceful and merciful. He does not overlook these things, He absorbs them into His grace. God has a million reasons to do away with us and sometimes we wish he would, but…

God is greater than our hearts (thank God), our imagination, our intellect, and our emotions. Can you imagine for a moment a God who loves you as you are, knowing all that He knows about you? It’s tough, isn’t it? But that is who God is. David, speaking to Gad, said,

David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands. I Chronicles 21:13
It is falling into human hands we should fear. God’s mercy is great and everlasting. It is man who is judgmental, unkind, and unforgiving. We are afraid of our true selves being revealed and then the judgement.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1

Throw yourself into the arms of God today and let your imperfections be swallowed up by his grace.

He is greater!

Your Turn

What have you been condemning yourself about lately?

Will you allow God hold you, forgive you, and love you today?

Who Drives The Bus Journaling Prompt

 

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Think about your church’s or your organization’s staff. Imagine you are all driving in a bus or van.

Who’s driving? Why?

Who’s sitting next to the driver? Why?

Who’s sitting in the back? Why?

Can anyone make suggestions about where to go or how to get there?

Is there driver going to fast? Why do you want them to slow down?

Too slow? Why do you want them to speed up?

Is the driver hesitant, unsure of where to go? Why? How can you help them?

If you’re the one driving,

Who do you want sitting next to you? Why?

If you were assigning seats, who would you sit in the back and why?

Can anyone suggest a course of direction? Why or why not?

Have you been told you are going too fast? Why?

Too slow? why?

Are you sure of where you are going? What assistance do you need?

 

 

Shooting For Maximum vs Optimum In Youth Ministry

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There are those of us who get discouraged when we are in a church that does not have the resources to produce the kind of youth ministry we want to have. This lack of resource may come in the form or money, people, or facilities. I struggle with not being optimum.

Optimum – most conducive to a favorable outcome; best.

I know that if I just had x we would have tons of kids, etc.

Optimum is rare.

Maximum, on the other hand

Maximum – as great, high, or intense as possible or permitted.

is using what we and who we are to make disciples, reach kids, have worship, etc.

Gideon’s army was not optimum but, through God’s power, they were maximum

David was not optimum, but he was maximum through his faith in God.

Jesus had 12 raggedy guys, not optimum, but they were maximum through the Spirit.

[bctt tweet=”Most instances for miracles are not optimum. ” username=””]

If you are struggling because you think optimum (best leaders, more money, etc.)  is the only way to do God’s work, consider passionately praying and doing your best with what you have and let God handle the maximum.

Your Turn 

What is not optimum in your your youth ministry right now?

How can you turn that into maximum?

 

Church and The Magic Trick According To The Rev. Bruce Springsteen

 

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I have not physically been to Bruce Springsteen concert but I hear it is just like a church service. Some spiritual and transcendent happens. The way he describes his concert is not too far off  on how we should look at church. Listen to how he describes “the magic trick” (it starts at 5:06) an then check my commentary below.

Now, before you say, “Lots of churches already look like rock concerts”, I am not talking about making our church more rocking’; although that is not entirely a bad thing, what I am talking about it our attitude towards the service, whether you are the preacher or the congregant.

The magic trick 

Some would call this blasphemous, but I know, as a Pastor, that what the “magic trick” is, it’s God’s presence.  Magic Trick would be a term that people who do not understand the presence or power of God might use to describe such an experience if they were in church. My friends used to call communion “snack time” and “cookies and juice”. They did not get it, but that’s all they knew.

We are there to manifest something 

As Pastor or participant, you could say that you show up to church because it’s your job or it’s an obligation. But, what if we took a different approach? What if bother Pastor and participate came to the table with the same idea, “Let’s do this together”.  What would happen to the church service if we approached the service this way?

It’s just an empty space until we show up 

I love this. It what ha been said for years. We are the church. The “church” is just a building until the church shows up, us. We are where the “magic” happens. between us and God and between us and each other. What would change about church if we came into service knowing that someone else’s experience of church or of God could depend on us?

You and the congregation work together 

The worship leader has a job. The preacher has a job. The worship leader leads songs, the preacher preaches the word. What does or should the participants do? If you go to a pentecostal church like me, you would sing, raise your hands, do a dance. and shout amen. What if you don’t go to a pentecost church? You can still sing (just not as loud) you could give an amen (just not as loud) you could do a little dance (just tap your foot a little, it’s ok, no one will see). You can also give in the offering, volunteer for the nursery or to usher; become a part of the service and you’ll see God move in ways you never thought before.

You are going to pull it out of thin air

This is where faith comes in. We gather by faith to worship a God we cannot physically see (although I would say we could see Him in each others) and to listen to although we cannot audibly hear Him (although, when the Word speaks, He speaks). Many times we come to church because of personal needs, we want something. What if we wanted something for someone else as much as we wanted it for ourselves? Something will begin to manifest, for us and for others.

Our job is to help make another thing

Stephen Colbert mentions the word transubstantiation. It is when one thing becomes another. Before we came to the church building we were individuals, broken, searching, hopeful, including the Pastor. I speak from personal experience. If take all the gifts, voices, and passions in the room we could make another thing. Together we could make joy out of sorrow. We could turn sickness into healing. We could turn lost into found. Everyone doing their part can make one thing another.

For some people, it’s like their first kiss

Bruce makes a great illustration here. The excitement we feel from our first kiss is a lot like the first time we sense God’s presence. Those of us who have been in church for a while are like old married people who have taken kisses for granted. Maybe that is why Jesus said, to the church of Ephesus, as well as us, we ought to return to our first love (Rev 2:4). We have to remember that it could be someones “first kiss”, first encounter with God and we ought to be committed to them recent the kiss they long for.

It could altar you for the rest of your life

Bruce believes his concerts can be life altering. and from testimonies I’ve hear, it is. It’s something you never forget. Shouldn’t church be this way? When the body of Christ gathers, should it be life altering, not just for us who participate but for those who lead? As a pastor, I want transformation for myself as much as I want it for the guy in the back row but for that to happen, we both have to participate.

God does the transforming but we all have to take a step of faith, believing that He want so show up.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

What if Bruce got up on stage, played for four hours and no one sang along, or cheered, or clapped. No magic. The church has to quit seeing church as a performance by a few people for the benefit of the masses, and start seeng church as an opportunity for someone to receive they first kiss.

Your Turn

Do come to perform or to participate?

When is the lat time you “felt the magic” in church?

 

 

 

 

I Wrote A Dirty Word On My Calendar

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Yep. The minute I wrote it I said, “That’s a dirty word.” At least was to me for many years. What was that word?  **** Trigger warning**** , about to say a dirt word: Maintenance.

I was finishing my calendar for next year and was reading it over,; and I wrote the word Maintenance in the top right hand corner and through my pen down in disgust. But, was I right? Was maintenance such dirty word to me?

For years, in my mind, maintenance meant average, to simply get by. It was the opposite of what I wanted in youth ministry which was change and growth. A closer look at the word maintanance revealed this

preserve, conserve, keep, retain, keep going, keep alive, keep up, prolong, perpetuate, sustain, carry on, continue 

or

provide with necessities for life or existence.

Wow! My calendar is suddenly looking pretty good!

Let me put this in football terms

It’s like when they say a quarter back is a game manager. Here in SEC land it was thrown around like a curse word because the quarterback didn’t do anything exciting or sexy. Every play cannot and should not be a Hail Mary. To win games, their must be a combination of passes, runs, punts, kick offs and the occasional trick play.

[bctt tweet=”It’s not the quarterbacks job to entertain the the crowd, but to win the game.” username=””]

If the quarterback’s play and the crowds excitement line up, then that’s great; but if the quarterback  simply wins the game, there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm. He won the game! That’s his job! Yeah, be it wasn’t very exciting. You are missing the point. Being a game manager is not a dirty word. Being a game manager is a path to miracles. We love the big play because we’ve sat through a dozen running plays, a few dump offs and a punt or two.

I thought about Jesus ministry. It’s recorded in the scripture that Jesus performed 37 miracles. Jesus’ earthly ministry was three years long. That’s 1,095 days (36 months). If you divide that by 37 miracles you have about one miracle a month. What did Jesus do the rest of the time? He maintained.

I keep in mind John’s words

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:25

Jesus could have done a miracle a day, but that’s an assumption not fact. I also keep in mind the times where Jesus could do no miracles,

He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.          Mark 6:5

Jesus wanted to do more, but was limited by the lack of faith of the people.

As youth workers, we are hamstrung by the faith of our kids, parents, and church. We can only do what people believe we can do. We can only pull off the big event or launch the cool whatever if we have the faith of the people. The good news is, we are not in charge of the miracles. God is. Our role is to do maintenance, in every sense of the word.

Keep the group alive. Keep it going. Carry on. Keep feeding it with those things that it requires to stay alive until the miracles come.

Your Turn

What do you think of when you heart he word maintenance?

Does knowing it;s real meaning give you hope that you are doing the right thing?

Des known this take any pressure off you to perform the miracles yourself?

31 Books Every Youth Pastor Should Read

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If I see one post over and over again it’s What are you reading. I like post like these because I am and avid reader and I love to share what I am getting from the books I am reading. I love it so much, I thought I’d do a video a day on my youtube channel to share the 31 Books Every Youth Pastor Should Read. Spoiler alert: Very few of them have to do with youth ministry.

Here are the books linked  to the video where I share more about it.

The Ragamuffin Gospel  by Brennan Manning

Nudge by Leonard Sweet

The D Factor by Liz West and Paul Hopkins

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell

Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli

Crucified By Christians by Gene Edwards

The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson

The Peacemaker by Ken Sande

Teaching The Bible Creatively by Bill McNabb and Steve Mabry

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bountiful Goodness by Thomas A’ Kempis

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Love Does by Bob Goff

Interrobang Preaching by Doug Withrup

Do The Work by Steven Pressfield

Small Group Strategies by Laurie Polich

The Path by Laurie Beth Jones

Draw The Circle by Mark Batterson

The Danger of Raising Nice Kids by Timothy Smith

The Student Leadership Training Manual by Dennis Tiger Mcluen and Chuck Wysong

A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards

Better Together by Paul Fleischmann

Practicing The Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

Know What Your Believe by Paul E. Little

Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan & Al Switzler

The Five Love Language Of Teenagers by Gary Chapman

How To Keep A Spiritual Journal by Ronald Klug

Anonymous Alicia Britt Nicole

Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living Without A Net

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This video has me stirred up. Can’t shake it.

I have a net called Youth Ministry. I know how to do it. I’ve been doing it for 25 years. I can assess a group, program a year at a time, and preach fire but it’s still a net. It’s safety to me.

I think of Peter. Following his denial of Jesus, he went back to his safety net, literally, fishing. Jesus had to hunt him down and call him away from that to pursue what God had for him.

What if he had just kept fishing? Yeah.

I can’t keep fishing in familiar places and hope to achieve the things God has put on my heart.

I am getting closer and closer to working without a net. I will have to hustle and God will have to come through or I will fail awesomely. I’m not as hungry as I once was and that has to change for the future I envision to become a reality.

I know I cannot just throw myself to the wind; but the next move I make will be a calculated one and there will be no net .

What’s your net?

The Path To Unintended Destinations

 

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I was reading about Darren Shaper’s trial and sentencing today. He said something that kind of shocked me:

“I still don’t know why I lived my life right for 38 years, and then I took this path.”

I find this little hard to believe. Do we just “take a path” one day?

Or, was Darren making small adjustments all along his journey?

A compromise here, a softening of a conviction there, all adds up to miles out of our way to where we want to be.

Recently a man jumped from an airplane without a parachute into a net. In this case, a miss is a miss whether it’s by a few hundred feet or an inch.

We must take care that the narrow road does not grow wider as we walk.

I don’t judge Darren, but his words have certainly challenged me to check my own moral compass and to break out the life map to make sure I’m gong where I really want to go without taking any short cuts.

Your Turn

Do you believe we just one day “take another path”?