Three Words You Must Learn When Mentoring Teens

I’ve been mentoring students for a long time, but there are three practices which are foundational to each mentoring relationship I enter into. These are the three legs to my mentoring stool, Listening, Opportunity, and Failure

These three words make the mentoring relationship worthwhile for me. I want hear what kids are saying, I want to give them the opportunity to do what God has gifted them to do, and I want them to learn from and manage their failures well.

If you put these three words to work in every teen mentoring relationship, both you and the person you are mentoring will be fulfilled.


Every mentor has a desire to share what they know with others willing to listen, but mentors have to learn to listen as well. The rookie mentor or the arrogant mentor sees mentoring as a information dump versus a conversation.

Mentees might want to know all the details and crunch bits or maybe they want hear just the big picture and work the details out for themselves. We must learn the art of active listening in order to hear what what our mentees desire to  learn and break it down what we know for their context.

Here’s a video of how I am listening to students in my youth ministry so I can plan what they want heat and mix it with what they need to heart. This simple exercise gives students space to share their desires and gives me a chance to  listen to their hearts.




My temptation, as a mentor, was to do an information dump without giving the teen a chance to do the things they were learning from me. Sometimes, I felt like the old boxing trainer who would tell the hungry young fighter, “You’re not ready kid.”  I did this for selfish reasons, I wanted them to succeed out of the gate so I would look like a good mentor.

What I should have been doing was giving them as many opportunities as possible to skin their knee so they could build a tolerance to failure. The opportunity to build, create, preach, write, etc would have allowed them to shake off the fear of failure and instead embraced failure as part of the growth process.

Jesus didn’t spend all his time on mountain top teaching his disciples waiting for some magic moment to send them out, He sent the 72 disciples he had out to practice/do the ministry ( Luke 10). Jesus gave them some basic instructions and then said, “Go.”

Jesus gave his disciples the opportunity to do big, scary things. He didn’t start them off with walking little old ladies across the road, he gave them power and opportunity and it produced something amazing.

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

Faith (a working faith) without works is dead. If I want a kids faith to grow and increase I have to let them do the work. Christianity is not a class, it’s about putting faith into motion, being lead by the Spirit, and letting kids do what God has gifted them to do in spite of potential failures.


Let’s not make that big deal about failure. Failure is not only pat of learning, it is often the catalyst to learning. I don’t glorify failure, but I do respect it as part of the mentoring process even if teens do not.

I don’t want to see the teens I mentor fail because their failure is my failure. I take it personally if I feel I didn’t prepare them well for a task.

As mentors we must be patient with teenagers for a variety of reasons,

their schedules.

their hormones

their school work

their family needs

Teens may not make every meeting we set up or accomplish every task we give them. These are what we call teachable moments. It’s not that a teen cannot perform a task (although it’s possible) you’ve  given them; it could be because of external factors causing them to lost focus or to diminish the value of the task you have given them. This is where the real mentoring begins.

If we’ll be patient and let failure come at it’s own pace, we’ll discover more about the teen wee are mentoring and lear the real reasons behind missed meetings, stalled tasks, and lack of communication.

Our role is not to train a teen to be perfect but rather how to manage and learn from failure so that they are not crushed by them. Teaching resilience is more important than teach  the skill . Skills can come and go as needed but resilience is a much needed  life skill usable in all situations.

“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”
Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Remember, if they’re failing, their trying. Give them  the needed space and grace to both succeed and fail.

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My Three Most Important Mentoring Rules

“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” — John C. Maxwell

This is a great definition of mentoring, and this kind of mentoring  has been a huge part of my ministry if not a part of my life. I have had some great mentors when I was young but, today, it seems everyone kind of expects you to have it all together by now.

Well, I don’t have it all together, and I’m still always on the hunt for mentors who will help me along this leg of the race. If you’re a youth worker working with teens in the local church, a non-profit, or camp setting, let me encourage you to find a mentor and hold on to them as long as you need to or until they have helped you finish your part of the journey.

Until that time, let offer you three thoughts on mentoring

Mentor By Example First  (Priorities, Family, Spiritual Life, Online Life)

Your example speaks louder than messages, events, and activities. Kids are watching your marriage, your family, your online life, and yes, even how you participate in church.

You may think your priorities are private but in realty they are public for all to see, especially online.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. I Timothy 4:12

This very is not just for young pastors but for all believers. Jesus said,

I have setyouan exampleso thatyoushould doasIhave donefor you. John 13:15

The example has been spelled and now it needs to be lived out.

Mentoring Your Students On Purpose 

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Titus 2: 3-5

Mentoring is an invitation to walk with someone. Mentoring can be done in a small group or a Sunday school class, but it is always done by invitation.

Jesus ask, “Follow me and I will make you..”

What can you make of the students in your ministry? Jesus made fishermen and if you are wise, you will have a short list of three things you want to help kids with. For me it’s

Bible Literacy, Character, and Skill Based Training.

I had an awesome experience the other day with a recent graduate. He came by the church to ask me some questions. This is is the kind of kid who says they want to ask you a question and you have no idea what is about to come out of their mouth. So, I said come with I have a few errand to run.

When we got in my truck I asked him, “Well, what’s up?” He told me he was taking an online Old Testament Class. I was blown away,. This kids never struck me as one to take that kind of class. We ran from place to place and he ask me questions and  we talked about his class. It was my kind of awesome.

I love to teach kids not just about a verse but about the context, the characters, the nuances of scripture. Students with a real depth of knowledge of scripture won’t soon be fooled by spiritual phonies or be weaponless in times of spiritual combat.

I don’t just want to make kids good, I want them to live lives of conviction. Having character and integrity is a learned process and so when there are times when a student needs to apologize to someone, I encourage them to make it right. If a student needs discipline, I offer it as a courtesy not as payback. Character is I Corinthians 13 lived out.

Kids need skills. Some of the kids I work with are slow on the skill building. They play a lot of video games and aren’t learning anything except how to win (at the time of this post) at Overwatch. Any time I can say, “Hey, let me teach you this…” I do if they will let me.

Mentor with a process in mind

And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2

What have you learned? Make a short list of the things you’d like to pass on to the students in your ministry. I have three, bur you may have five. It doesn’t matter about the number, only that we are always pouring out that which God and man have poured into us.

Find kids who have some sticky-ness to them. They come to every meeting, every activity, etc. These kids may have a choice of not bu if they are going to be present why not offer them a little bit more to motivate them.

Once you teach them, over time, give them a change to teach others. I am working with an intern right now and she is learning how I work, expectations, etc. and once I pour what she needs in tour her I am releasing her to our into others. It’s I pour, she pour without too much downtime.

“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” — Denzel Washington

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:20

I recommend  Mentoring 101 by John Maxwell if you are looking for a place to start.

Who’s mentoring your students right now?

What are they being molded into?

How are you playing a part in shaping students?

If you’d like to here me talk through these points watch the FB Live below.

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My 7 Back To School Rules For Youth Pastors

Close your summer out right

Have a bonfire, testimony night, or a slide show of all your summer activities. Maybe have a special worship night or a night where everyone affirms one another and points out where they shined this summer.

I share a few ideas here

Plan with the end in mind

Get your Christmas Party on the church calendar and beat the rush. Make a list of what kind of student you want to have in three months or at the end of the school year and plan accordingly. We are doing a time video time capsule and letting kids talk about their goals and dreams for the year and we will show it at the end of the school year. This will be great for all our seniors this year.

Kick off your season with a bang, a few weeks after school starts.

End of summer and fall are two separate things. I like clear lines between season. This is probably form living in Florida too long where there were no lines. The only way I knew seasons were changing, was by what was on the shelf at Wal Mart.

I recommend having your kick off several weeks into the school year so kids can meet others, get to know them, and invite them the big deal.

Looking for a good kick off, try this



Have a W2W Strategy

What is W2W? That is a Wednesday to Wednesday strategy. How will you communicate with students between the W’s? How will you communicate with parents? If you do not have a current way of doing this try doing a one minute Instagram devotion every day or post a poll so kids can vote on various things.

Have a printed as well as digital fall calendars

Be sure to hit up your local print shop,  if you cannot make your stuff in house, and you’ll find some great options for putting out your flyers and calendars.

Be sure to take the time now to make digital flyers for download so parents can copy them and put them on the fridge.

You should also make your social media pieces using this and this.

Get ahead of the game!

Meet with parents and find out what they need

We are having an open house after service one Sunday and I plan on using this day for recruitment of parents and other church members for events, camp, etc.

Before this day happens, I will be doing a FB live video to my parents group to share my heart for the new year and to all them to share their ideas and what their kids need specifically.

Parents must have a voice and we should give them every chance to communicate with us. Even the crazy ones.

Meet with school officials

Getting to know your school is important if you hope to make it your office away from your office. Here’s a few ideas.

Check with coaches to see if they need help

Check with the office to see if you can be put on a chaperone list

Offer your services as a photographer, videographer, or editor.

Offer your church for the football team to have pre-game lunch at (this has worked for me) or for the end of the year awards ceremony.

At least make sure the office staff knows you in case you go and eat lunch with some of your students.

To get more ideas like this in out inbox, be sure to sign up for the Fresh Impact Newsletter below.

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If This Were Your Last Year In Youth Ministry..

As you’re thinking about the fall season and planning events, activities, and messages, let’s add a wrinkle, this is your last year.

If you knew this was your last year at this church does it make a difference how you will plan? What about if it was your last year as a full time youth pastor? Are there some things you’ve been holding back on? Why?

What would you want to leave your students with? (Try writing that in one sentence) Now, plan accordingly.

What lessons are most important?

Which activities would leave he greatest impact?

Who would you pour into?

Who would you make things right with?

How would you staff your ministry?

How much effort would you put into evangelism. worship. or fellowship?

Why can’t you start planning this way today?

We should always be planning with the end in mind, and not just the end of our youth pastoring days but the end of our days here on earth.

Psalm 90:12 says

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Let’s plan for eternity rather than forever.

If you are looking for some help with your fall planning, check out my book Prepared For Impact.  

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My Short List of Ways We’re Helping Kids Fail At Following Jesus

It came out of my mouth so fast I barely had time to think about it, “You are helping them to fail.”

My friend has a videography business. He uses the best technology  but has flashes back to 1992. In the conversation we were having, he recommend to someone about making DVD. My jaw just dropped, dumbfounded.

This made me thing about all the ways we fail people and especially students. Here’s my short list of how we’re helping kids fail at following Jesus.

We help kids fail when we do not discipline (correct) them

I know we are not their parents, but next to them and their teachers, we maybe the only other authority figures in their lives spending any significant time with them.

We see their faults and their failings and, if you were young like me once, you traded some of your authority for popularity. This is automatic fail in my opinion. I would trade any popularity I might have gained with those kids for another shot at telling them the truth in love.

Recently, I took our kids to camp. A young lady, who represents the Goth culture, was with us and has been a solid member of our youth ministry for seven years. She was wanting to go a bit over the top for my taste and asked her not to dress that way. I talked with her a week before camp about dress and make up and not to go over the top. She was offended and did not speak to me for the rest of the camp.

I don’t make apologies for being the the grown up in the room, and neither should you. Things have blown over and I get the occasional wave now and again. Things are warming up. They’ll get over it, or they won’t. Either way, I have to lovingly and

We help them fail by not helping students engage with basic spiritual disciplines 

I recently spoke at a camp this week. The same camp I have been speaking at for 14 years. For the most part, I do not put the full scripture on my slides any longer. I put the address of the scriptures and then ask if anyone would like to read the 6-8 scriptures I have as part of my messages. I always have volunteers to read. I go to where they are sitting and let them read the verse and then I share my point.

In addition, I ask campers to close the service by “praying us out of here”. Kids love the ownership of public prayer and usually results in increased confidence and respect from their peers.

Lastly, I ask for public testimony. This is never a forced activity. I ask, “Has God shown you anything or made a difference in your life this week?” Sometimes I get a dozen hands raised, sometimes one, sometimes none. Whether anyone gets up to share or not, the offer to share their story is the point. I believe God is always at work and giving students a chance to share helps them become bolder in sharing their faith in the long run.

We help them fail by not raising the bar

We contribute to a students’ failure by not expecting more from them. This especially applies to those church kids who say they are believers and followers of Jesus but rarely dark the doors of our youth room or sit passively while everything is done for them.

Jesus was constantly asking his disciples to do thinks that were way beyond what they thought was their human capacity.

“you feed them”

“leave everything”

“Go into all the world”

Big commands for simple fisherman and ordinary people, but how many times do we justify why we don’t challenge kids to dream big and do more?

“they’re poor”

“they’re homeschooled”

“they’re not the cool kids”

If we’re excusing our kids because of their current condition we are contributing to their future failure.

It’s our job/calling as youth pastor to challenge students to believe God for big things, it’s the students job to receive.

Let’s be faithful with our call and let God handle our students’ hearts.







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Youth Ministry Is Not A Democracy

I’ve tried my best to please kids, to a point, but youth ministry is not a democracy. Some things are not up for a vote.

I don’t let kids vote what music is played in the youth hall or the van , I set the standard and give them options.

I don’t let them vote on the name of the youth ministry, I dribble out a few names to a few  students to see what they think, and then we decide.

I don’t let them vote on where they go to camp, even if that means some do not go.

I don’t let them vote about what I preach on.  I listen, ask questions, and let the Holy Spirit reveal it.

Can you imagine Moses taking a vote to go into the promise land?

Can you imagine Joshua taking a vote whether they should attack Jericho?

It’s not up for a vote if we’re going to feed the poor, share Jesus with the lost, have worship, or care of the lonely.

Can you imagine Jesus taking a vote on wether the disciples wanted to get in the boat and go to the other side?

We should always build consensus with young people, but young people do not know what they want, only want what is best of them, and most,  do not understand the consequences of their choices; this is why they need a leader not a friend.

We should always listen, talk, and even debate, but some things, most things,  are not up for a vote. Leaders have to lead and students will decide if they want to follow or not.



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Adding Depth To Our Days: Fleeing The Shallow Life

“People care much more for how things look than how things are.”
Donna Lynn Hope

This quote really says a lot. I’ve worked in a few shallow churches that were all about image and lacked a ton of substance. Shallowness, although, is not limited to the church.

I am disappointed with humanities lack of depth, which means I’m disappointed with my own lack of depth, in some areas. I can talk youth ministry, youth ministry theory, and all things youth ministry programming and discipleship. Poetry, not so much. But here is hope.

I am reading a book by Robert McKee called Story. A quote caught my attention concerning attending movies and it sparked this post (with more to come).

We do not wish to escape life but to find life, to use our minds in fresh, experimental ways, to flex our emotions, to enjoy, to learn, to add depth to our days – Robert McKee

I sat in Arby’s the other day, talking with a young man about ministry, when a gentleman from the booth next to us chimed in.

Dan the Carpet Guy: Do you think you can be saved by the Ten Commandments?

Me: No.

Dan The Carpet Guy: What about the fourth commandment?

Me: The Sabbath?

Dan the Carpet Guy: Yeah, I think many churches are disobedient to this.

Me: Well, you could attend a Seventh Day Adventist Church. They meet on Saturday. Where do you go to church now?

Dan The Carpet Guy: Baptist Church.

Me: Well, if it’s your conviction that you ought to worship on Saturday, then I say live your convictions and do that.

Dan The Carpet Guy: I can’t. My wife won’t let me.

Me: (Laughs hysterically)

We went back and forth, sharing scripture and jabs, all with a good attitude. What ensued was a great conversation and it added depth to my life.

We’re so afraid to talk deeply., to love deeply, or to share deeply for fear that we will be found out to be frauds or worse, shallow.

As we go deeper into the things we believe with other’s who believe the same and with those who disagree; depth will sneak up on us and attach itself to us, readying us for the next round of life.

“Maybe a person’s world can grow bigger in all the right ways, not too wide that it becomes shallow, just large enough to preserve its depth.”  ― Deb Caletti, The Fortunes of Indigo Skye.

Here’s my Facebook post where  I share a little more.

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Real Youth Pastors Don’t Give Up Their Dreams

This is the 12th out of 12 posts from my series of reflections on Jeff Goins new book Real Artists Don’t Starve. It really hit a nerve in my life and I wanted to express those thoughts to you, the artists, the local youth workers who work so hard to accomplish what God has gifted you do in your own artistic way.

If this is your first time here, and you want to start from the beginning, you can click here for the first post, Real Youth Pastors Don’t Starve, otherwise, read on.

Mine is a cautionary tale to young youth workers seeking to please God. I hope, after these 12 posts, you’ve come to realize that you are an artist and what you do is valuable to God. At the end of day, realize that YOU and only YOU,  not the local body you serve, is going to make the best decisions for your life. I almost realized this too late.

Let’s continue with the the tale.

I have never asked how much a job pays until I was hired. Crazy? Maybe. but the calling was more important than the pay check. It sounded crazy even as I was typing it. It may be one of the reasons I’m in the position I’m in financially today.

I’m not broke, but I’m not rolling in money. But, how many youth workers do you know rolling in money? If you see one, call the cops because something bad is going on.

In my 30’s and 40’s I wish I was more ambitious to get paid what I thought I was worth  instead of just taking the job because I thought it was the right thing to do or God’s will. It may have been both or neither, but I wished I had negotiated better or at all.

It’s hard to look back and say I was wrong though. Every place I’ve worked (or the two years I was unemployed) God has taken care of me and my family, but I have dreams and goals now that could have been funded by making better decisions

Money isn’t that important when you are young and stupid. We want the experience, the thrill of the chase. I certainly got that and more but one of the downfalls of youth is its inability to look into the future and see who you want to be and how much you’d like to be making when you get there.

This past Sunday I spoke with a young man who had started a speaking ministry and then became a youth pastor. After a year, he was let go because he was made to choose between the ministry he had started and the job he had. This wasn’t a fair choice, if that’s how it went down. This kid has dreams and was made to choose between them. The money he was making as a youth pastor was helping him build his dream, his art.

In his book Real Artists Don’t Starve, Jeff shares this principle,

The Starving Artist despises the need for money. The Thriving Artist makes money to make art – Jeff Goins

When youth pastoring was my dream it was to pay the bills, but now it funds my next dream of training and coaching youth workers. My job pays for

  • my SoundCloud account where I post my podcast
  • this website to be hosted
  • the store where I post my resources.

It takes money to create and produce. Money serves the art I make not the other way around.

If you have dreams beyond youth pastoring or, like me, dreams of staying in youth ministry without the youth pastoring, it will take money. Consider the money you need to make to eventually

  • build  the boys home you want
  • go on the mission field
  • starts a training ministry
  • open a bakery

Who knows the dreams God has placed in your heart (well, you do) but all those dreams will require money. How will you fund your dream? Here are a few ideas

Care about what a church is paying you. 

As much as you want that job, don’t sell yourself short. Don’t just take the job because it seems like it’s the only church that wants you. Be prayerful and be patient. Make sure the church you work at values you and pays you accordingly. Negotiate your salary from the beginning (based on your needs) and then at three, five, and ten years.

Trade money for time

If a church cannot pay you what you are worth (and most cannot or will not) make sure you trade money for time. Don’t let a church pay you part time and work you full time. Make sure you negotiate the time you need to work on the other dreams or passions you have which will either pay your bills or fund your dreams.

If youth ministry/pastoring is your dream, make sure the church understands that and ask them for ways they can help make full time ministry a reality.

Don’t give away your dream for the sales pitch of “experience” or “opportunity”

Start something on the side

Take some something you already love, and are pretty darn good at, and make something of it. Try to do things that are in your wheelhouse and doesn’t conflict with the money making job.

My prayer for you is that you have as long a youth ministry career that you’d want. My prayer also is that that you don’t sacrifice future dreams and goals because you settled. Do all you can to serve the body you serve well but don’t be afraid. to work on your dreams while you do it.

Be prayerful, wise, and prudent about money, salaries, and negotiations. Don’t be greedy or over-inflate your capabilities to get a job, keep a job, or to get more money. Money is simply a means and not the end and money is certainly not worth fighting over.

God has taken care of my needs for 27 years through good decisions and terrible decisions I’ve made that had an adverse impact on my family. He took care of me and He will take care of you. Just be smarter than I was.

Jeff offers this last bit of advice and it seems fitting to leave you with.

 money is the means to making art, but it must never be the master. – Jeff Goins

If you would like to help fund my dream of helping youth workers on a full time basis, check out my Patreon page and get some goodies in the process.

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9 Ways You Should Be Preparing For A Life After Youth Ministry

This is the 11th post in my series of 12 posts on the new book by Jeff Goins, Real Artists Don’t Starve. It’s my attempt to convince youth workers that they’re artists and that their work matters.

Being a youth pastor for 27 years sounds romantic, but it’s also pretty one note. I’m eventually not going to be a full time youth pastor. I’ll always do youth ministry, but not in the youth pastor role. This brings me to the point of this blog, you should be diversifying your life.

Unless you are planning to climb the ministerial ladder (which is not all its cracked up to be), become a senior pastor, and build a large church, you should be diversifying your life/career. The church, that body you serve for no matter how long,  does not and will not owe you anything. They’ll look at you and say, “You should have been making plans.”

When I made a lifetime to commitment to youth ministry 27 yeas ago,  I had no idea what I was saying. My 22 year old self had not idea what was in store. It’s hard to say if I would change anything but I would certainly add to my life more skills, certificates, and whatever else would help me get ready for a time when I would not a youth pastor.

Thankfully, in the past ten years, I’ve been able to adapt to the internet and technology. I’ve been able to use these things as a means to create the life I want in the future which is to train and inspire youth workers, but even that has become diversified between this blog, my store, my Youtube channel and my podcast.

The Starving Artist masters one craft.                                                                    The Thriving Artist masters many. – Jeff Goins

The same is true for youth workers. If you were no longer able to be a youth pastor in a local church,  what would you do? Let’s say, like in the market crash of 2008 where people lost their retirement, etc. you suffered a crash of some kind that left you devastated and you had to start over. What next?

This is why diversifying your talent portfolio is so important. In the midst of your ministry you could be skill building, learning, adapting, and when the time comes, you’d be ready for whats next.

Here are eight things you could be doing to prepare for what’s next

Get your CDL license so you can drive something besides a church van.

Improve your computer skills (how to build websites, fix computers, etc.)

Get certified in another passion (gun instructor, CPR, lifeguarding, etc.)

Improve your writing skills (start a blog, write book reviews, etc.)

Improve your communication skills (Take a class online or off, join a Toast Masters, start a podcast)

Learn a new skill that’s in high demand (welding, car repair, etc.)

Start a side business (catering, dog walking, etc.)

Finish or start your degree

Network like crazy and get to know people in various fields (ministry, business, finance, technology, etc.)

Your art is never beholden to a single form. You can always change and evolve, and the best artists do this regularly. They understand that in order to thrive, you have to master more than one skill. This is the Rule of the Portfolio: the Starving Artist believes she must master a single skill, whereas the Thriving Artist builds a diverse body of work. – Jeff Goins Real Artists Don’t Starve

There are thing you are learning in ministry that will help you later on. You also brought some skills into the ministry that are helping you ugh where you’re at. Like home and auto and your internet and cable, you should be bundling those into crafting a life after youth ministry.

You say, “But Paul, I’m 25. I have plenty of time.” Until you look up one day and you don’t. We have a responsibility to our church to do a  good job but we, if we’re married, owe our families a good life. Unless you work at a mega church, with a fantastic retirement package, the local church you work at will be of no help to you one day. You have to help yourself now.

Jeff relays the story of Michelangelo and how he diversified his skills t be become unbeatable. In the middle of his already established career he learned architecture and began designing St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. 

Michaelangelo start with sculpture, moved to painting and leaned new skills as the opportunity arose. Do not say no to opportunities to learn new things, you’re only hurting yourself.

We must realize that each week we teach, preach, do outreaches, etc, that they are not solitary acts, we are building a body of work. If we build wisely,  and  intentionally, “What’s next” won’t be as difficult to answer.

On to the final post: Real Youth Pastors Don’t Give Up Their Dreams 

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Take Ownership Of Your God Given Talents Or Someone Else Will

This is my 10th post, in a series of 12, where I use Jeff Goins book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, to convince and inspire you, the local youth worker, that you are an artist.

This particular chapter deals with artists who give away too much of their art or do not recognize the worth of their work or realize too late.

The church does not own you or your  God given abilities. You are loaning them to a particular Body for a season (or several seasons). I want you to be a smart artist who recognizes what you can do, not in prideful way but a discerning way, otherwise, like many other jobs, your talents will be abused or worse, forsaken.

The church, in it’s call and design, is meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus, in the carnal, most church are autonomous organizations that define themselves how they want, feeling their way in the dark, and doing their best in light of God’s word.

This chapter of Jeff’s book deals with artists who wished they had recognized that their gifts and talents were being misspent and the artist himself held back from being all they could be. Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers was such an Artist (band)  and this is what he said after he discovered that the record company had done him wrong.

And when you trust the system fully, there may come a time when the system no longer needs you. “I wish I’d had a mentor,” he told me. “I never picked up on the fact that if you want to get somewhere, look at where you’re trying to get and start by studying the people who’ve gotten where you want to go.”

This is true when we do not take ownership (being good stewards) of what God has given us.

Sadly many youth workers, maybe even you, have told themselves that it was God’s will that you’re supposed to be at the church you’re at, even if it’s toxic. I disagree. This is where the youth pastor job is just a job. There is  call, but you have  choices as to where you want to serve without the fear of God’s wrath coming down upon your head.

This is where a ‘church” is like any other organization. The church is far from perfect and often reflects any other “business” with terrible bosses, underpaid staff, and terrible working conditions and we chalk it up to God’s will. I disagree. I do not believe it is God’s will to be miserable when we have a choice not to be.

We have to own our faith and talent, like a musician should own their songs, and decide what is acceptable and what is not, otherwise the system will dictate that for you.

Owning your faith means you don’t drink the Kool Aid everyone is feeding you. It means, when the orderlies come with your meds you hide them in the back of you mouth between check and gum in stead of swallowing it. It means thinking for yourself, being clear headed and discerning. Newsflash: Your Pastor, board, deacons, elders, are not always right and it’s ok to disagree.

If you continue to go along and believe that it’s Gods will that you should suffer under terrible,

out of context preaching

awful communication skills

a lack of vision for the community in which you live


a laychsidaiscial, satisfied, way of how God’s business get done, then you will look up one day ,like Stephen Kellogg, and discover that you gave away a good many years to a system that could have cared less wether you

became your  best

were emotionally/mentally/spiritually healthy

were prepared for the future (professionally/spiritually/or financially)

The “system” will alway carry on, while many youth workers limp away or worse, decay within that system.

I know this sounds like a dire warning, and maybe it is. You are a believer in Christ who loves young people and most of you are like the prophets of old, filled with fire and gasoline to burn, as described by Hebrews

They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were put to death by the sword. They went around in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, oppressed, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and hid in caves andholes in the ground.These were all commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised.…

Many of the churches and organizations you work for are not worthy of your God given talent. They waste it, abuse, ignore it rather than nurture it and give it opportunity to flourish.

Taking ownership of your faith means not casting off your responsibility to

  • feed yourself from God’s word than take what is said from the pulpit as gospel truth.
  • to better yourself by reading books, listening to podcasts., watching videos, etc. from various disciplines.
  • to look for opportunities, outside the church, that will allow you to shine the way God made you to shine

I can’t tell you whether you should leave your church or not, that’s between you and God, but I would ask that you prayerfully (not pridefully) consider the gifts God has given you and ask yourself, “Am I being used for God’s glory or just being used?”

Tenth post in this series: 9 Ways You Should Be Preparing For A Life After Youth Ministry 


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