Youth Ministry Excuse #7 I’m Afraid

I’m afraid

Yes. We all are. Fear is and incubator for excuses meant to paralyze us from doing anything. Excuses are assassins and they use poison darts. Some darts kill our dreams fast, some slow, and some paralyze us into status quo.

Our fears are many. Fear of

trying something new
changing something old
retiring a volunteer
changing camps

and a host of other things we know we should do, but don’t because we are afraid of the backlash from parents, kids, bosses, etc.. This is completely understandable.

Maybe because you’ve moved to a new church hundreds or thousands of miles from where you lived and you are now on a path where the fear of failure makes you throw up in your mouth a little. That’s ok, but the one thing you cannot afford to do is nothing.

So, how do you kill the fear of change before it kills you or worse, puts you in a spiritual coma?

How To Kill This Excuse : Momentum through consensus

I don’t think it is so much the fear of failing that bothers us but the fear of failing alone that gets to us. We don’t want fingers pointed at us and we don’t want to be the sole reason something did not work.

As the lead though, we are in charge and have to figure out ways to move forward with what God has placed on our heart. We have to lead from our convictions. If the church that hired you wants you to keep things the same, they should have hired a monkey to push buttons and flip switches. You are a leader, and leaders lead from conviction.

Changes take time and you do not have to be in a hurry. Love is patient which means God is patient with you and you can afford to be patient, if you are planning to be with your youth ministry long term, to be patient with the people around you.

I only just recently, after seven years, pulled of a weekend retreat that did not involve taking our kids to a statewide event. We had an  amazing time! But it all  started with building consensus with kids and parents.

The key to breaking the neck of fear is building momentum through asking key questions such as “What’s the worse that could happen”, ask, “What’s the best that could happen?”, “What would it look like if we did not go to this but did this instead?” Once you have some answers, instead of the nagging, negative ones you tell yourself, you can push forward with a clear picture of the change you want to make.

After you’ve collected all the answers to possible concerns, pitch your ideas for change, or something new, to the team around you including adults on your team, parents, and students. Build consensus rather than making wholesale change. Change without consensus is like jerking the steering wheel of the car and making everyone shift without warning. No one likes that. Consensus building, on the other hand, is like rolling a pebble down a snowy hill and letting it snowball into collective momentum which will make the change happen quickly and smoother.

I have a rule,  I try to include as many people on new ideas and possible changes. I try to expand the ownership of the change or idea way beyond me If I cannot get the ownership, I do not make the change because I am setting myself up for failure.

Being a lone wolf is a last resort and only if the change MUST happen, will I pull the trigger by myself.

Imagine a snowball of team work and positive energy careening down hill crushing excuses as it goes. I love it! Being positive will smack fear in the face and make it think twice before it rears it’s ugly head again. Putting the positive spin on change will allow everyone to see the possibilities rather than the downside.

Let’s also remember that fear is not a part of our spiritual DNA,

God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind – 2T 1:7

Lead from your convictions not your fears.

Lead as a team not a loner.

Lead with right information and positive energy.

I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?

– Soledad O’Brien

The real thing we should be afraid of?

Making no changes at all.

On to Excuse #8: I’ll Just Quit

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Youth Ministry Excuse #6 It’s Too Much Work

It’s too much work. Similar excuses sound like  “it costs too much” and “it’s unreasonable”.

Youth ministry is hard work, it costs money, and is often unappreciated. We should embrace the challenge of the work by bringing our best to it and providing joy because of it. Besides, what did you think you signed up for? Cheap, Easy, and Reasonable? That’s a motel, not a ministry.

It’s too much work is the excuse I hate the most because it denies us a greater return on our investment.

Let me by honest, we want ministry to be easy , stress free, and prayer free. We don’t even want to have to pray about it. If we don’t even have to pray about it, maybe it’s not be big enough for God to be involved with it, and that’s a bad thing by the way.

I get it. We just want things to work, but the events, camps, and meetings that I’ve put the extra time into, are my most satisfying. The extra work, time, prayer and detail I put into anything, gives me the greatest satisfaction. Even if the event does not meet my expectations I never regret the extra effort.

How To Kill This Excuse:  Weighing Effort vs  Impact

I once drove a car into the chapel at the camp I speak at. It was the biggest, most audacious, illustration I had ever done. I called people, went shopping for rental cars that would fit through the chapel doors and prayed..a lot. I saw in my mind the effect it would have on the kids and how it fit into my message.

The Impact was worth the effort.

I’ve taken kids to jail in a paddy wagon to talk about tithing and robbing God.

I’ve had people build me a jail cell at camp so I could preach as the Apostle Paull

I’ve shown up in a clown suit to a kids birthday lunch.

There is no limit I will not go to to make a point or bring a joy.

Yes, it will cost you

extra money for a prop,
extra time to make the right slides
extra effort to build and train the team

It’s only too much work if you can’t see the impact it will have.  This means we should stop and dream a little bit more, catch a vision of what the event might look like if you did X.

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”
― Helen Keller
We have to remember that God is not sitting idly by watching us work our butts off for nothing. God may be waiting for us to bring our extra to the table so He can bring his blessing.

Dream of the effect and then put in the effort to make that effect realty.

On to Excuse #7: I’m Afraid

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Youth Ministry Excuse # 5 I Am Powerless

I have been told, in various churches I’v served, that I could not do something

I could not use secular music

I could not take kids to such and such

I could not redecorate the room

I could not do pool parties

All of which I thought were stupid, but it wasn’t my call.

After I pitched my little fit and blamed everyone for why the youth ministry could not grow or said “If you just let me do …,  I got busy doing what I could do.

Staying within the lines is not my style (and still isn’t) but if I wanted to keep ministering in the local church I had to quit making excuses about being powerless.

How To Kill This Excuse: Collaboration

Many Youth Workers have very little control or say so in the direction of their ministries, but we do have influence. We don’t sign the checks or have a vote, but we do have passion and vision. We can talk, persuade, vision cast, and influence the people around us who do have control over the things we want/need changed.

Real power is not having full control, real power is, according to Dacher Keltner  in his book The Power Paradox, is

“altering the states of others”

This can be done through force or it can be done though joy, surprise, or kindness.

I was a big proponent of the first way. I’d make every argument in the book for why my way was the right way. I changed very little hearts or minds with that method.

Keltner goes on to say that power is given not grabbed and then shares how power is really attained. He uses the word groups, but we can safely include the church in his examples

Groups (Churches) give power to those who advance the greater good. 

For too long I fought for the rights of our youth ministry. I saw my self as the ministry only advocate and I raised my voice when I thought we were being disrespected.

What I did not take into account was that I was a selfish knuckled and did not think of the church as a whole. I wanted what I wanted and let the rest do what they wanted. It was not until I got my thinking unstuck and started to do what was best for the whole and not just for me, did I experience true power.

This leads to principle number two

Groups (Churches) reward those who advance the greater good with status and influence. 

The more I asked,

“What can the youth do to further the churches vision, message, and principles?”

the more I was seen as a team player and less of a rabble rouser.

The more I committed to being a team player and not a dangerous outlier that could upset the apple cart, the more responsibility I was given, the more my opinion mattered, the more I heard yes instead of no. For a youth pastor, this kind of power is like gold. My youthful passion cost me quite a bit of gold.

Lastly, the good use of power leads to principle number three

Groups (Churches) construct reputations that determine the capacity to influence

My negative actions had built me a reputation. Although I had skills, I did not have power. I was the talented monkey playing with matches. I had to rebuild my reputation

It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it. –  Benjamin Franklin

I had not only lost my reputation, I had buried it.

Think of the basket ball player who consistently hogs the ball and tries to make crazy shots with zero results. That was me. The team may decide they need you on the court for defense but they do not have to throw you the ball any more.

Also, griping about not getting the ball will only get you traded.

One of my great tenants of youth ministry, now,  is how can the youth ministry bless and serve the rest of the church. I do this by

  • integrating the churches theme (mission, purpose) into the youth ministry DNA
  • serving other ministries in the church from nursery to senior citizens
  • create youth Sundays that will bless our congregation

You will never know greater power than when you are given it rather than trying to take it.

You are not powerless! It’s not that the church won’t let you do anything, maybe just have a bad definition of what real power looks like and your process for getting it is flawed.

Collaboration, not instigation, brings true power.

On to Excuse # 6: It’s Too Much Work 


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Youth Ministry Excuse #4 I Don’t Have Time

Excuse #4   I don’t have time

Really? Are you sure about that?  I bet you do. Let me speak to the two kinds of youth workers who may be reading this

If you are a volunteer/bi vocational youth worker 

You have quite a task. You have minimal amount of time to get a lesson or message  ready all the while working your other job. You love the youth ministry but you don’t feel like you have enough time to do anything well. I’ve been there. What can you do?

You are doing all you can.  I would not feel one ounce of guilt because you can’t do it all, but the key is doing what matters most with the time you do have.

When I was part time/bi vocational,  I wasn’t great at balancing life/work, it was just work. If I had it to do over, I would spend my time

  • connecting more with students outside of church
  • calling/texting students to just say hi and ask for prayer requests
  • accepting my limitations and embracing God’s grace

If you are a bivocational/volunteer youth worker, you can’t necessarily do more but you can be more. Why not

Listen to a few youth ministry podcasts to and from work like After 9,  The Longer Haul and mine,  if you want, Youth Ministry in Motion.

You could watch some YouTube vids from the Faith and Whatever guys, or Delmar Peet,  Frank Gil, or, if you want, my channel HERE instead of mindlessly flipping channels

The best way to use time is intentionally.

Remember, even more important than your youth ministry knowledge  is your ability to be available. If you’re available to talk, eat, and do life with students, you won’t have to worry about having enough time to do stuff that doesn’t matter, you’ll be investing your most important minutes face to face or text to text with kids. That’s the stuff that matters.

To you who are full time

Think about your day, your habits, your time wasters. We are privileged. We have the joy of serving full time and yet we waste tons of time on stuff that will not matter on earth or in eternity.  We waste so much time on frivolousness and trivia that we become unaware that we are losing kids, losing momentum, and losing credibility.

You know the phrase “Rome burned while Nero played his fiddle.”? Well, it’s possible that we are, unnecessarily, burning time off the clock of our youth ministry careers to pursue stuff that, in the end, will not matter. This roller coaster road trip could end tomorrow or in 10 years, we don’t know. This is why time is so important and should not be wasted.

How To Kill This Excuse: Discipline

Now, if you’re happy with a lifestyle where you get to snub your nose at time, go all in, enjoy. But, if you are complaining about your ministry, your lack of kids, your lack of vision, the lack of passion, please don’t use the excuse that  you do not have  enough time. You have control over that and you know something has to go.

Stop bingeing on Netflix
Playing on the computer
Spending so much time playing golf
Watching so much T.V.

Pick your poison. I know all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and  I am not against play, fun or any of the things I have listed above. For a time, a season, you may have to put some of this away so you can work on a skill you need such as

Take college course in person or online
Watch Youtube videos about a subject
Join a community where you can skill build
Seek out a mentor for extra help and encouragement
Take a class at the Y or the library

There are options available to us all, the question is whether we will accept the discipline to do it.

We can’t  make excuses and make a difference the same time.

Redeem your time. Buy it back, or if it’s been kidnapped, go Taken on it and get it back at any cost.

On to Excuse #5 I AM Powerless

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Youth Ministry Excuse #3 But I’m Not…

I’m not __________________ (Good enough, smart enough, etc.)

A poor self image is an incubator for excuses. Consider Gideon, the Lord came to him and wanted to choose him for great things. He responded with

  • My clan is the weakest
  • I am the least

God always sees more in us than we see in ourselves. Gideon was the victim of “brainwashing” from years of hearing, over and over again, things that fed the incubator and produced these excuses. Even if Gideon’s clan was the weakest and he as the least, that made no difference to God. God saw him, and sees us, not as we are, but who we could be if we believed what he thought instead of our excuses.

Now, the truth may be the you are not good at something. You were not dealt the “game leading card” in your DNA, that’s understandable; but to say “We are not going to play any games because I’m not good at games” is kind of a non-starter with our teens, right?

The danger of the “But I’m not..” excuse is that it cripples us to do anything. Once we think we’re broken, no good, or less than we’ve sabotaged our self confidence.

It’s o.k. to say, “I’m not good at _____” but it’s not ok to say “I’m not good enough.” God placed you in a position to grow others and, in the process, grow yourself. He must think you’re pretty cool and worth calling you to such a great mission (a He did with Gideon), as youth ministry.

We all have our gifts and skills in youth ministry, but too often we’re put into a position that requires us to do everything and do everything well. We are overloaded by crazy expectation from others and ourselves.  It’s not fair, but it’s the way it is.

So how do we kill this excuse?

Weapon of Choice: Truth

Tell yourself the truth

Make a list of what you are positive you are not good  because you’ve tried and it turns our terrible every time (preaching, leading games, graphic design, promotions/marketing, etc.).

Now, is this skill on the list because you are unskilled, uneducated, or uninterested or all of the above?

If the answer is number 3,  does it need to be done in the first place? If you have no one else who can do it, will it simply go undone?  Are students, parents, and your boss ok with that? Or, could you do it,  but in way that reflects your strengths and not the perfect image of what it should be while still being effective?

Tell others the truth

Be honest with your team, your parents, your board, and whoever else needs to know, and say, unless you lied on your resumes,  “I’m not good at this, who can help me?” Vulnerability is opening the door so other gifted and empathetic people who would love to jump can jump in and help you.

Let the truth set you free

Once you’ve come to the conclusion that you will not be the greatest communicator, best game leader, or graphic design specialist that frees you up to get better at what you are good at.

Lean into your strengths and recruit to your weaknesses.

Always leave the door open for someone to come come into the youth ministry.

  • Have open door training sessions twice a year
  • Make appeals on social media for something you or the group needs
  • Create space within your ministry for others to practice or experiment with their gifts like hosting a talent show night. This way you can see where kids gifts lie.

Free to outsource

Not good at something? Let others help you. Outsource what you are not good at to those who are.

Not a gret newsletter person?  Check out  DYM and their newsletter template.

Graphic Design? 

Free to get better, if that’s what you want.

If you want to get better that designing things, check our my two videos on these free online graphic creators Here and Here.

If you want to get better and raising up students leaders, you can watch this, this, and this

We can get better at just about anything, if we want to.

You are more than you think you are. You were hired because someone saw something in you. Your board/pastor may have hired you for your skills but God called you, like Gideon,  because He sees something in you no one else sees. An opportunity to Glorify Himself.  Will you let Him?

On to Excuse #4:  I Don;t Have Time 

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I Turned My Office Into A Studio

I have had this idea for a while and it was time. I hated my office. It was a junk magnet and every piece of crap including balls, banners, pieces of wood, clothes pins, just name it and it wound up in my office. No more. Time to act and make this thing useful again.

You’ll see, in the video below, the transformation and how excited I am about the possibilities. Creating media is nothing new, I just decided that if I wanted to create it and allow my students to create it, I wanted a decent space for them to do it in.

Weekly, we will now be able to produce video announcements, social media stuff, post youth meeting interviews, and more.

Watch and let me know if you have a specific place to create media for your youth ministry or would like to.

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Excuses In Youth Ministry #2: I Don’t Have The Right Team

Excuse # 2:  I don’t have the right team/I’m all alone

Missed the beginning of this series? Check it out here

Most of us work in small churches and we get who we get. Those who are committed to weekly services are the people God has brought there and that is the pool from which we have to draw.

Constantly saying “I don’t have the right team” is an excuse to do nothing. Even though you don’t have the right team may be true,  we cannot use it as a reason to do-nothing.

I have always had big dreams. I wanted to see kids receive Christ and watch  my youth group grow as a symbol of the growth of the kingdom of God. But I’ve had to adjust my dreams to fit my team while I grew my team to embrace the bigger dream.

Some of my teams, over the years, were just not ready for the full dream and I had to grow them into it. The question is “How long are you willing to wait?” What’s your patience like?

It’s possible that your dreams are too far out of reach for the volunteers you have and you have to scale back until you’ve grown them into your dream and this take time..Volunteers/Leaders need time to grow, time to marinate in our leadership style.

It could be that you’re not good at training others, try some of these

  • find some resources on the web and do a weekly e-mail
  •  post photos or make videos for your volunteers to help them visualize what you’re trying to do.
  • Break down your dream in stages and train them with a drip, drip, drip approach, feeding them your thoughts in small doses and in multiple formats.

No church has the perfect team, not even the big ones, just people who love teens and want to help minister to young people. We have to respect  where our team is at and grow them accordingly.

What if I am  all alone? If you are starting by yourself, with no team, this is a great opportunity to build trust and cast vision. A good vision will attract the right kind of people.

  • Spend time writing on social media and sharing it
  • Hang signs about your vision in your youth area
  • Put small blurbs in the your bulletin and on your churches website.

You can’t over communicate who you are and what you are wanting to do.

How do you kill that alone feeling or feel like the team isn’t getting your message? 

Weapon of Choice: Patience

Think of movies like Oceans 11 or The Hobbit. Teams are formed to accomplish a certain task. Teams gather, they come along side, they join us for a portion of the journey and then their paths diverge. This make sense if you are  planning to stay at your church for at least 3-5 years.

Consider Gideon who had to pare down his army to win the battle. God told him to filter out all the people who would not be the best candidates for that mission. As crazy as it sounds, God new something Gideon did not, with God, less really is more.  God knows who needs to be on our team. We have t be patient with the process.

When I was younger I enjoyed puzzles. I used to work on 500 piece puzzles with my in-laws.  A 500 piece puzzle can be done in a few hours. A 1,000 piece puzzle can be done in a few days. A 5,000 piece puzzle, well, a long time, if you’re me, but depending on how captivated by the picture you see on the cover of the box, will determine your patience and how hard you will work to see that picture come together.

So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. Genesis 29:20 

Fall in love with God,  let your team gather, and the wait will seem much shorter.

What is the perfect team? (The picture on the puzzle box)

Describe it to me?

Are you willing to wait for them?

On to Excuse # 3 “But I’m Not…” 

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10 Excuses That Are Killing Your Youth Ministry

Excuses are assassins. They are sneaky, well trained, well armed assailants whose sole job is to kill your hopes and dreams. Now, what are you going to do about it?

Let me be clear, these are excuses we make, not our kids and not our parents. These are excuses we use and try to convince others that the narrative we’re telling is the truth.. The reality is, it’s OUR excuses that could be killing the youth ministry.

I have made my fair share of excuses and eaten it’s fruit. I have blamed people, shirked responsibilities, took the lazy road, and 100 more like them and have killed my dreams one by one. I have been on a tare lately on both my Instagram and on Facebook Live, addressing excuses, their nature, and my vehement hatred of them and why I will kill every, last, one.

I want to challenge you, push you, to see excuses as dangerous thugs that ought not be played with. Every excuse has a price tag and when it comes to spiritual matters, excuses make the difference between a healthy and unhealthy ministry

So, let’s get on it.

The 10 Excuses Trying To Kill Your Youth Ministry # 1 Apathy 

No one cares/it won’t matter anyway/no on will come 

I hear you. It’s tough, but someone has to care. Pick something you don’t like to do such as calling a kid that hasn’t been to your meeting in a while or plan an outreach. What stops you from doing either of these two things? What excuses do you make?

Apathy is an excuse incubator and it must be destroyed. We have no idea what our phone call can mean to someone or who might show up to the outreach we plan or the small group we start. I have recently reached out to some kids on Snapchat who quit coming a while back. I include them in my snaps about events believing that the next snap is the one that will snap them back into attending.

I know you’ve been burned by big dreams and low results, but what’s the alternative? Giving up? Giving up is a virus our kids can catch form us. We must show them how to plan well, persevere, pray though when it’s tough, and know when to punt when we fall short.

If we put our events, plans, and, most importantly, our hearts,  into Gods hands we can live with the results. Can you live with excuses?

In the end, no one will care more about this ministry than you;; not because you’re paid to care but because this youth group has your name on it, it’s yours. Care about it and other will, eventually, care with you.

How do I kill the sprit of apathy?

Apathy can be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal, with takes the imagination by storm, and second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.

– Arnold J. Toynbee

Weapon of Choice: Kill it with value

Everything we plan in youth ministry may not be of value but every kid in our youth ministry IS valuable.

Value your kids input: Consider doing a youth ministry audit/survey and see what your kids think (See 9 Questions You Must Ask Your Students)

Value your kids ideas: Don’t plan anything by yourself. Get kids and other adults to pitch in and they will get excited about doing and mot just attending.

Value the victories (no matter how small) : Look at past victories and know that you are making a difference. (See Defining The Wins In Youth Ministry)

Value the fear of a big idea: Just because the idea is big, it shouldn’t scare us. In fact, if the idea is too big for you to do, and scares you a little, it may just be a God idea. Big ideas draw people to your side.

Value enthusiasm: If we are not stoked about it neither will they. We have to be the prime mover when it come to excitement. Enthusiasm, like apathy, is viral and can be caught.

Apathy can sneak up on us like a thief in the night, stealing our joy and our passion. We have to care, because if we do not care for our youth ministry, who will?

Excuse #2:  I Don’t Have The Right Team

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If I Can’t Push You, I Can’t Pastor You

Push sounds like a harsh word, but considering how this applies

A coach pushes athletes to do their best

A boss pushes an employee out of their comfort zone

A teacher pushes a student to open their mind to new learning

Pushing isn’t wrong. Pushing is only wrong if it violates the boundaries of safety (physical, emotional, or spiritual) or respect. Jesus did not push his disciples past these boundaries.

In fact, He did quite the opposite, He pushed them to have faith in Him and in themselves. How else were they going to grow without a push?

Jesus told the disciples that they should feed the 5,000

Jesus bid Peter to come to Him on the water

Jesus told his disciples to go and cast out demons and raise the dead in His name

Jesus told the lame to rise up

If I am going to Pastor someone, I must lead them into dangerous territory; dangerous to their flesh, their pride, and their ego. They’ll have to trust me that I will not endanger them and I will not embarress them.

Pushing is not shoving. A shove is a violent act. A push can be a gentle nudge.

New believers, static believers, and even rebellious believers need the occasional push (challenge) in the right direction.

I won’t push forever. I’ll only keep pushing until you learn to respond to the nudge of the Spirit. Until then, I’ll  keep pushing.

Who are you pushing?

Who needs a push?

Who’s pushing you?

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