Youth Ministry is not just something we do in a church setting, it’s something we do everywhere there are young people. You can be legacy builders and never be full time youth pastors. Parents, teachers, plumbers, camp counselors, whoever loves students can be a legacy builder.
In my post yesterday, I shared the experience I had at camp this year when I went and spoke. It was my 14th year and the the fruit that the Lord revealed to me was amazing. As I reflect back on 14 years of speaking at this camp I want to share how I think I got here.
1. I never changed my message
My camp messages are small journey’s, taking kids from a place of brokenness to a place of healing. I always did my best to stay on message and not get caught up in the drama of the day or focus on the cultural whipping boy (or girl) of the moment. Jesus and his sacrifice and our response to it has been the centerpiece of my messages.
I used to try to be funny, work the messuage up a bit, but that only clouded the message I was trying to get across. Jesus got lost in my amateur comedy bit. When I focused my message and gave the students who I was instead of who I thought they thought I should be, that’s when I started to see the fruit of my labor.
Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus. – Alexander Graham Bell
2. I made time for relationships beyond the meeting
I have watched camp speakers over the years, and all the good ones build relationships with students throughout the week. Maybe they eat their meals in the dining halls with the students or do activities with them, making themselves accessible. I stick around and talk, pray, laugh, whatever, to just be with kids. I’ve seen too many speakers do their thing and then leave. I don’t think I would have seen the results over the years had I made that a practice.
In addition to making time for the kids I would hang with counselors in their off time. Sometimes we would go to lunch or we’d hang in the counselors library and chat of play games. Building trust with counselors is equally important as building trust with kids.
3. I did what God called me to do and then got out of the way
In the early days of being a camp speaker, I would go back to a cabin and hang out or share with campers. I realized that I was taking too much responsibility and was over reaching with my influence.
I quickly shifted from making myself the “answer man” and made the counselors the “go to” people. Counselors are the bread and butter of the camp. Most of them are college students who want to share their hearts and experience with Jesus and I don’t want to stand in the way of that.
God called these counselors to this camp to fulfill their purpose and me to mine. I speak at camp and allow God to do what he does and then I make the counselors the hero of the story; because they are the ones who spend day in and day out with these kids and I don’t want to get in their way. I want to support their ministry.
4. I down-played my role in the process
In the past 14 years I have seen the rise of the celebrity Pastor/Speaker. I don’t care much for it. In fact, I do my best to play down any kind of over the top compliments. I had a young lady call the The Almighty Paul, that made me cringe. She didn’t mean anything by it, she was being complimentary, but I quickly reminded her that there as only one Almighty and I am not HE.
It’s easy and fun to take the credit, but in the end, I knew I was just a conduit for His greatness to be revealed.
Humility is the true key to success. Successful people lose their way at times. They often embrace and overindulge from the fruits of success. Humility halts this arrogance and self-indulging trap. Humble people share the credit and wealth, remaining focused and hungry to continue the journey of success. – Rick Pitino
5. I challenged kids to be The Church
Yes, I want them to impact their schools, homes, etc. but I wanted them to closely identify themselves as the hands and feet of Jesus. I reserve Thursday nights as a challenge night for every kid to take their place in God’s Kingdom. We end in celebratory worship to Jesus like an army marching off to a war that knows it has already won.
With kids who are graduating from camp, I encourage them to give back, be a counselor, be a Jr. Counselor, participate in some way. Thankfully many of them have answered the call and why the camp has great counselors every year.
It takes time and patience, but you can build a legacy right where you are. Stick to your principles, make Jesus the focus, and you’ll be on your way
How are you building a legacy of discipleship in your youth ministry?
What are some non-negotiable principles that have helped you through the years?