I have been told, in various churches I’v served, that I could not do something,
I could not use secular music
I could not take kids to such and such movie
I could not redecorate the room
I could not do pool parties
All of which I thought were stupid, but it wasn’t my call.
After I pitched my little fit and blamed everyone for why the youth ministry could not grow, I finally got busy doing what I could do.
Staying within the lines is not my style (and still isn’t) but if I wanted to keep ministering in the local church I had to quit making excuses about being powerless.
How To Kill This Excuse: Collaboration
Many Youth Workers have very little control or say so in the direction of their ministries, but you do have influence. You don’t sign the checks or have a vote, but you do have passion and vision. You can talk, persuade, vision cast, and influence the people around you who do have control over the things we want/need changed.
Real power is not having full control, real power is, according to Dacher Keltner in his book The Power Paradox, is
“altering the states of others”
This can be done through force or it can be done though joy, surprise, or kindness.
I was a big proponent of the first way. I’d make every argument in the book for why my way was the right way. I changed very little hearts or minds with that method.
Keltner goes on to say that power is given not grabbed and then shares how power is really attained. He uses the word groups, but we can safely include the church in his examples
Groups (Churches) give power to those who advance the greater good.
For too long I fought for the rights of our youth ministry. I saw my self as the ministry’s only advocate and I raised my voice when I thought we were being disrespected.
What I did not take into account was that I was a selfish knuckled and did not think of the church as a whole. I wanted what I wanted and let the rest do what they wanted. It was not until I got my thinking unstuck and started to do what was best for the whole and not just for me, did I experience true power.
This leads to principle number two
Groups (Churches) reward those who advance the greater good with status and influence.
The more I asked,
“What can the youth do to further the churches vision, message, and principles?”
the more I was seen as a team player and less of a rabble rouser.
The more I committed to being a team player and not a dangerous outlier that could upset the apple cart, the more responsibility I was given, the more my opinion mattered, the more I heard yes instead of no. For a youth pastor, this kind of power is like gold. My youthful passion cost me quite a bit of gold early on.
Lastly, the good use of power leads to principle number three
Groups (Churches) construct reputations that determine the capacity to influence
My negative actions had built me a reputation. Although I had skills, I did not have power. I was the talented monkey playing with matches. I had to rebuild my reputation
It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it. – Benjamin Franklin
I had not only lost my reputation, I had buried it.
Think of the basketball player who consistently hogs the ball and tries to make crazy shots with zero results. That was me. The team may decide they need you on the court for defense but they do not have to throw you the ball any more.
Also, griping about not getting the ball will only get you traded.
One of my great tenants of youth ministry, now, is how can the youth ministry bless and serve the rest of the church. I did this by
- integrating the churches theme (mission, purpose) into the youth ministry DNA
- serving other ministries in the church from nursery to senior citizens
- create youth Sundays that will bless our congregation
You will never know greater power than when you are given it rather than trying to take it.
You are not powerless! It’s not that the church won’t let you do anything, maybe just have a bad definition of what real power looks like and your process for getting it is flawed.
Collaboration, not instigation, brings true power.