One of my former pastors used to say,
“This church didn’t just pop out of the ground”
He usually said this when people were taking the church for granted. He mostly meant it in a physical way, the building came together with people building it brick by brick, but it can also be said that the church, spiritually, doesn’t just “pop out of the ground”
When I first started in youth ministry, youth pastors had a reputation for being lazy. I heard more than one pastor, in network meetings, speak ill of their youth pastors because, to them, they didn’t do any work.
This is more than likely not 100% true. Youth Pastors work differently, a lot of the work is done behind the scenes. What I am seeing, at least in my own community, are apathetic attitudes mixed with privilege.
There’s lot’s of complaining and not a lot of real work being done.Yes, there’s busyness but that’s not the same as progress. Rocking chairs are busy, but they don’t get anywhere. Busyness is not the same as work.
I get it, some Youth Pastors are busy trying to survive and some are still trying to stabilize their youth ministry post covid. What I find incomprehensible is the complaining in light of the lack of work.
Youth ministries have a glut of managers when they need leaders. Youth Ministries, and churches, need pastors and youth pastors who are willing to get their hands dirty again and do the work.
What is the “The Work”
The work, for youth pastors, I believe, falls into three categories Structure, Relationships and Personal.
When I say the structure of a youth ministry, I mean “how it works”
- How are disciples made?
- How are guests greeted and retained?
- How does a youth meeting work?
Each “how to” has a designed purpose or end.
- with our pastor, parents, volunteers and students
- with the rest of the church
- with our community
- soul work
- skill work
- family work
If you’re complaining that kids are not bringing their friends and you’re binge watching season 3 of the Office for the 3rd time, instead of working with your students to design effective outreaches, you should stop complaining.
If you’re complaining about your pastor but have made zero effort to build a relationship with them, you should stop complaining.
If you’re complaining about your adult volunteers but haven’t been investing in them, you should stop complaining.
Complaining, without the work, is privilege. It’s expecting God to do something without the sowing or sacrifice on your end. I’m not talking about martyrdom or beating yourself into the ground with long days, I’m talking about processing, thinking, praying and meditating on solutions to your biggest problems.
Experimentation is part of the work, it’s critical to finding solutions. Like a scientists trying different formulas to find answer or doctors trying to find cures, youth pastors have to be willing to experiment with their formats, their processes, their worship or their curriculum.
You may not come up with a solution with a solution right away, and that’s ok, you’re taking notes, banking information, watching trends and deciding what’s next. It’s all part of the work.
N o one owes you a successful youth ministry, let alone God, but unlike salvation, where works cannot trump the work done on the cross, prayer alone, study alone and preaching alone will not supersede the work you have to get done day in and day out.
Plant. Water. Let God grow you and your youth ministry, but above all,
DO THE WORK