You Don’t Need New Lipstick, You Need A New “Pig”

Have you heard the saying, “You can put lipstick on a pigs snout, but it’s still a pig?” This phrase is in reference to dressing up an ugly situation hoping you can disguise it, hiding all it’s flaws. Let’s be honest, when it comes to some youth ministries, sometimes there just isn’t enough lipstick.

Our youth ministries can get ugly sometimes . We try to dress it up for our parents, our pastors, the board, etc. There’s nothing wrong with an “ugly” youth ministry. Our youth ministries, like our students, like us, are becoming beautiful over time and through various cycles.

What I suggest is, not try to cover up the “ugly” with lipstick of excuses, pretending it isn’t ugly, in this moment.

Here are some of the lipsticks we’re tempted to put on our pig.

The Lipstick of Busyness

To add another metaphor, adding more activities to your calendar is like adding more deodorant when you haven’s showered in a few days, you still stink. More activities only masks the problem, hoping that no one will notice that the youth ministry is not making disciples, not making progress, and not growing.

Eventually, your youth ministry will slow down, and then it will hit you, “what was all that busyness for?” and your still stuck with a youth ministry going nowhere.

The Lipstick of Comparison

When we start saying things like, “Well, at least …” we’ve started lowering the bar.

Well, at least no one is pregnant.

Well, at least we’re not lot like….

Well, at least kids are coming

Is this bad? Not necessarily. Phrases like this are a coping mechanism when things are not going according to plan. We should always find the positive in our “pig”. We should always look for the small increments of growth and change in our students and celebrate it.

The problem is, if we’re using the phrase too often, it becomes a justification for not trying something different or for not giving more effort to change the things we can change to move our students deeper or further in their faith. It also becomes an excuse for not improving ourselves. The latter is something we have complete control over it. Let’s stop lowering our expectations of God, ourselves and our students and reach for higher goals.

The Lipstick of Numbers

More must mean we’re ok, right? No. Churches with bigger youth ministries just have bigger pigs to decorate. The big numbers can get in the way of a fair evaluation (if any) and slows our need to make changes.

Big numbers can mask flaws in our discipleship strategy. Big crowds are great but the youth ministry as a whole can be unhealthy.

Don’t let big numbers lull you into a false sense of security. Big numbers are not the end game, helping students become more like Jesus is.

The Lipstick of Happy

Everyone’s happy, that’s good, right? Sure it is, but is happiness a good indicator? But how did everyone get that way? Appeasement? Fulfillment?

I always want my students to be happy. I pray for their well being, but from a ministry context, my call is to put them in positions that will make them grow into who God is making them to be, this, sometimes, makes them unhappy.

This kind of unhappy is ok because it’s revealing something about their life and showing them they have room to grow.

We all have a pig, or some shade of pig. If we stay at a church long enough or stay in youth ministry long enough we’ll start to hear the “oinking”.  Once that happens, we have a choice, dress up the pig with excuses and wallow in the mud with it or do what is necessary to turn things around.

Our youth ministries will always have a little ‘pig” in them because youth ministry, leadership, teenagers and life can get ugly, but we should always love our pig and do our best to care for it.

If I can help your youth ministry be better pig, click here to book me to speak, consult or give a workshop.

Remember, pigs can still do amazing things!!

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,  DYM, and my podcast, Youth Ministry in Motion.

You could watch some YouTube vids from Stuff You Can Use  or my channel HERE instead of mindlessly scrolling cat videos.

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

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 

Youth Workers: Beating The 5 Excuses Keeping You From God


I read a book back in the day called Can You Not Tarry One Hour by Larry Lea. He shares how you can fill one hour with prayer. The problem was that I focused on filling the hour rather than connecting with God.

This is not a guilt you out post to get you to spend more time in prayer but a post that I have to deal with on a daily basis. Before we can enjoy our relationship with God we have to deal with the excuses we make that keep us from it, and trust me, I have used them all and then some.

I’m too busy

Yes, we’re all busy. We have message to craft, programs to plan, meeting to attend etc. etc etc. The only problem is that all those things lift us up and make us the center of attention. If we are busy we are blessed. If we work hard we are patted on the back, so we do what give us our strokes. The problem is we’re spiritually bankrupt and fried. We have to choose between speeding up or slowing down.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Martha wanted to speed everyone up to accomplish some task. Mary wanted to slow it all down and Jesus sided with Mary.  If we’re too busy to sit at the feet of Jesus then we are forfeiting the very thing we need that makes the work we do worth while. This excuse is futile.

I don’t feel like it

Sometimes I  get a little upset with God. My wife would ask me if I had prayed about a certain situation and I would remark, “God and I are not currently on speaking terms.” You know who came out on the short end of that stick, right?

Being directed by our feelings in following God is a terrible idea. If we allow feelings of bitterness, forgiveness, jealousy and resentment to reign in our hearts the only direction our feelings can take us is away from God.

I tell my students that

If you don’t feel like worshiping God, worship until you do.

If you don’t feel like reading your Bible, read it until you do fee like it.

I have had to take my own medicine many times. Are negative feelings creating the excuse you’ve made? Clear them out and pray until you feel like praying and sing until you feel like singing. God will come.

It’s been a while

There used to be an invisible line in my mind that once I crossed it it made it hard to cross back over. I have gone weeks without any serious sit down tome with God and the longer I went the further away the line seemed to get back to.

Guilt and shame are powerful feelings that demotivate us from even approaching God. look at at Adam, he sinned, he hid, he blamed others. Nothing much has changed since that day.

We have a job and we do it. We feel like whether God is part of our daily lives or not we can still do our job of programming, going to meetings, etc. all without having had time alone with God. This is true. We can do that, even as Pastors, but should we? Craig Groeschel talks about being a Christian Atheist. We bear the name but we live as God does not exist. The danger of living that way is it can become a lifestyle.

If you like, like me, have been a prodigal Pastor, stop, know this, that God is waiting for you even if it’s been a while.

I get bored

Not gonna lie, I have fallen asleep praying and reading the Bible. I was bored. Reading and praying had become a grind rather than a joy and we all tend to stay away from stuff that bores us or that feels like work.

What if you could release your mind from the typical quiet time model and could explore new ways to love Him? I recently did a video encouraging youth workers to do just this. Check it out and see if any of those work for you.

I don’t know where to start.

Been there. Sometimes the Bible overwhelms me. I know where certain passages are and how to study so I can preach but sometimes I don’t know where to start to feed my own soul.

There’s the Bible as a blue print that we read to offer kids the info but it has stopped being life giving to us. When this happens to me I start simple. I head to Psalms and proverbs or I read through a gospel to get back to the story of Jesus. I have to detox from reading for work and read for me.

Sometimes I book a guest to speak so I can take a week off to focus on my own life and get healthy so I can reconnect with the God of my story.

We all have excuses and we all have to fight them. Fight on and you’ll win the battle for your soul.