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

Thankful for the Mess: 7 Unexpected Things I Love About Being A Youth Pastor

11 · 09 · 23

“What are you thankful?” will be asked around hundreds if not thousands of tables this year. The majority of people will answer things like

  • my life
  • my family
  • my job

All things one should be thankful for, but what if you and 5-6 other youth pastors were sitting around that Thanksgiving table? What would you all be thankful for when it comes to your youth ministry or as your role as a youth pastor?

I think there are some things we should be thankful for but overlook so I’d like to share my list of what I am thankful for.

I am thankful for the mess

Yes, I am thankful I can pick up cake off the floor along with candy wrappers and sometimes my notes. All of these are evidence that something has taken place. A clean youth room, at the end of a youth meeting, is a sign that nothing’s happened.

I am thankful for failure

I am thankful that I don’t get it right every time. I’ve had lousy messages, games that didn’t work and have gotten in trouble for overspending (among other things). These are just a tiny portion of my failures and I’m thankful for them because they made me grow.

I am thankful for honest teens

Whether in jest like the young lady who recently rolled her eyes at me and said, “stoooop!” as I danced across the youth room to the trash can or those teens who have challenged me about the direction of the youth group. Either way, the honesty was refreshing and helpful although not always welcome.

I am thankful for adults who care

I’m not talking about my leadership team who helps me with youth on a weekly basis, because I don’t have one. I’m talking about the adults who open their homes for Christmas parties and those who cross the isle in church to say hello to a young person. They are unsung heroes in my book.

I am thankful for the trust

Whether it is the trust of my pastors to let me try new things, the trust of new parents who allowed me to bring their kids to camp or the trust of new students who enjoyed themselves enough to come back another week, trust is something I try not to take for granted and it’s something I am never done building.

I’m thankful for simple, spiritual growth

I come from a tradition that loves to brag about the numbers and dramatic spiritual conversions but I am thankful that that is not the only way Christians grow. I am thankful for the students who take baby steps, fall, learn and get up and try again. Because even after The Big Moment, there’s nothing but small steps to follow.

I am thankful to still be useful

I am 30 years into this thing called youth ministry and God has seen fit to allow me the opportunity to keep doing it. God doesn’t have to use me, but He does and I am thankful that I can still be useful to Him.

In my opinion, thankfulness and gratefulness are super powers. They can lift you from low places, strengthen you when you are weak and make a tired soul come to life.

If you’re in a place where you can’t find a lot to be thankful for, spend some time in prayer and allow the Lord to bring some things to your memory and He will encourage your heart.

If I can encourage you, please feel free to drop me a note at and tell me what you’re thankful for and maybe why it’s such a struggle to be thankful at this moment.

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