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

The Youth Pastor’s Rite of Passage

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If you’re new here, hello. Thanks for stopping by. My name is Paul and I was in youth ministry for 30 years. I currently drive a truck delivering HVAC equipment. Every profession has its rite of passage, things that will happen, eventually. For a company delivery man like me, I have my own rites of passage in learning this new job.

  • I have forgotten products
  • I have brought the wrong products
  • I have gotten lost
  • I have damaged products
  • I have damaged the truck
  • I have damaged the business I was delivering to (this was my latest episode, it was small)

Mistakes are the price we pay to get better anything. It’s called learning. As a youth pastor you’re going to make mistakes either because you don’t know or because you were careless or because of happenstance. Mistakes will come.

I recently asked a Facebook group what they thought the rites of passage of a youth pastor were and these were some of the responses.

  • Lock Ins (if you know, ya know).
  • Damaging the church van in some way.
  • Picking an unnecessary fight with a parent or someone in leadership (senior pastor, elder, etc).
  • Playing indoor volleyball and breaking a few lightbulbs.
  • Accidental hole in the wall.
  • Not ordering enough food.
  • Accidentally swearing in message.
  • Taking students to a movie that you thought would be good but turned out to be inappropriate. 
  • Leaving a student or leader somewhere and not knowing it.
  • Agreeing to have some students rake leaves at a congregant’s house only to end up doing most of the work yourself.
  • Ruining Santa for a middle school student
  • Screaming ‘SHUT UP’.
  • Getting asked the question, “How far is too far?”
  • Making a kid cry. For any number of reasons that aren’t conviction from the Holy Spirit. These usually involve dodgeballs you’ve thrown.
  • Not having someone proof read before sending or printing a mass communication piece.
  • ER visit that your game caused.
  • Forgetting/losing receipts.
  • Using a word in a ‘big church’ sermon that means something totally different to the senior adult demographic of the congregation.
  • Not getting a waiver signed before a big event involving paintball or any physical activity where the likelihood of a junior higher being injured can occur
  • Making a “your mom…” joke. …to a kid whose mom was in jail.
  • Watching Super Bowl halftime show LIVE!
  • So I went up to teen said glad you are here young man a pleasure to meet you just to find out before went up to preach that was a girl!
  • Not Interviewing all of your volunteers and just taking someone because they are willing, “love youth,” or come “highly recommended.”
  • Showing and inappropriate movie that you thought was appropriate
  • Changing the thermostat in the sanctuary.
  • Losing money on a fundraiser,
  • Having a student throw up after/during a chugging game.
  • A dating couple has a bad break up at camp that’s bad enough to tear a hole in the time /space continuum.
  • Using the baptistry as a hot tub.
  • Playing dodgeball in the sanctuary knocking over expensive equipment.
  • Letting a kid who just got their drivers license drive your car.

Now, this is not a checklist. These are not things you should be proud of, in fact if they occur at all they will make you nervous and nauseous, as it should. These are only “funny” years later and never in the moment.

If you’re just starting out in youth ministry, be aware that these are real things offered by real youth workers and many of the youth workers who shared have committed these in the multiples.

Let me offer some advice to those of you who are new and are already nodding your head at some these rites.

  • Don’t brag about these events, keep them in your pocket to empathize with other youth workers just starting out.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. These are the rites of passage. The cost of learning.
  • Don’t be dismissive of your mistakes. They are a big deal to someone. Be contrite.
  • Be open to learning from your mistakes. I offer coaching for those looking to become better youth pastors.

If you have something you believe is a rite of passage of youth ministry, leave yours in the comments.

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