Giving youth pastors the tools they need to make and shape disciples.

Building A “Leave It Better” Culture

I’m not a a soccer guy, but this story I heard from the World Cup caught my attention.

The Japanese national soccer team won their game against Germany but that’s not the only reason they made headlines. Pictures of their locker room started floating around because of how immaculate it was, but that’s not all.

The Japanese players left origami cranes with a message of thanks. The question shouldn’t be “Who does this?” More importantly, it should be “Why don’t more people do this?”

The Japanese fans visiting Qatar also received praise because they cleaned up trash around the stadium and not just their trash everyone else’s trash as well. Can you imagine leaving for a sporting activity and and saying to your spouse,

“Don’t forget the garbage bags for after the game”

Several questions crossed my mind,

“Why did they do this?”

“Was this a stunt?”

but more importantly,

“How can I build a culture of “leave it better” with my students.

If you’re a Youth Pastor, I imagine you might be thinking the same thing.

Let me offer three ways to start building a “better than you left it” culture.

The example begins with you

Youth group leadership won’t just pop out of the ground, it begins with modeling what “better than you left it looks like”

What “leave it better” standards do you emulate?

  • Do you clean up what you dirty?
  • Do you do extra or bare minimum?
  • Do you leave people with a final thought, “Can’t wait to see them again” or “Good riddance”?

Lay a foundation by leading the charge to stack chairs, put up tables, vacuum the carpet, take up plates or anything else that would demonstrate that you are leading the way.

I picked up plates at my goodbye dinner at once church and one of my leaders asked, “This is for you, why are you taking up plates” I said, “Because I came to this church with a servants mentality and that is the way I want to be remembered”

Emphasize servanthood leadership

Jesus said, in Matthew 20:25-28

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Youth group student leadership begins with students serving as Jesus served, even without thanks. Let your students know that serving is what leaders do even when they are not asked.

Youth Ministry student leaders should know that

  • cleaning up the youth room
  • setting up the youth room
  • helping with refreshments
  • talking with guests

doesn’t require an invitation, but encourage your students to use their initiative.

Find ways to implement servanthood whether you’re leaving a restaurant or leaving church. You can call it a ministry of leaving.

Living good lives brings glory to God

I Peter 2:12 says,

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

“Living such good lives” or, in another translation, “conduct yourself with such honor” means

beautiful, as an outward sign of the inward good

Doing good, living with standards, is it’s own reward, but the side benefit, Peter says, is that the people around you who do not believe in God will have no choice but to glorify Him because of the way you lived your life. Let your inner, God given, good show!

I told my students that this story is not a commentary on how you leave the youth room every week, they are very tidy and helpful, but rather an encouragement to think long term and to ask themselves,

“How can I leave this youth ministry better?”

My hope is they expand this idea into,

“How can I leave this world better?”

Whether you’re interested in building youth ministry student leadership, I have written a four lessons about overcoming obstacles called Weekend Warrior that could be taught four weeks in a row, used as a retreat curriculum or as a quarterly weekend training. I hope you’ll check it out.

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