There are many virtues of a successful Youth Pastor, key traits that you need to have to be effective. I’m no expert, I am still learning them as I go, but when I learn new virtues, I’d like to share them with you, my readers.
The first virtue that is a key trait for every youth pastor is the ability to laugh at yourself. I can think of countless examples to show how not having this virtue can do damage to a youth group, but the one that sticks with me came from my rookie year as a part time youth pastor.
Granted, I was too young to be a youth pastor, and I still dont know what the church was thinking hiring me, an 18 year old freshmen in college, to be their Jr. High and Sr. High Youth Pastor. I mean, I was only 6 months older than the oldest kid in my Sr. High, but there I was. Needless to say, our Sr. High Bible study was more like a group of friends hanging out than it was students with a leader, which is a good thing to have, just not with this context.
Eventually, I had lost my ability to laugh at myself and began to get very frustrated that my “students” weren’t respecting me as a “leader” and were making too many jokes about me. I blew up one night about their lack of respect, how they treated me too much like a friend and not enough like a leader, and left the bible study early. Because they didn’t view it as youth group, and really, why should they have, they didn’t come back the next week, or the week after. They began to just meet separately, since they didn’t really need me and I obviously wasn’t their friend but their leader, and my role as Sr. High director was essentially done there. Though the Jr. High continued to thrive, it was clear I had made a fatal mistake with those 5 sr. high students.
Fast forward to yesterday and you have a pretty good example of when laughing at yourself turns out pretty good.
I was out of town all weekend for my Mothers 60th birthday celebration at my parents home in Chicago. Sarah and I drove home late Saturday morning, but didn’t get home until very early Sunday morning. We woke up just exhausted and feeling sick, and since we knew we had a very long day ahead of us ending with the youth group’s Halloween party, we slept through church (had the OK from the pastor, so it was fine).
So towards the end of the Halloween party, three of my key students came to me, pulled me aside, and said they really needed to talk to me about something important, could I meet them in my office. The looks on their faces had me worried, this was serious. Because of the issues I know they are all working through, I was pretty worried. Until I met them in the reception area and saw that my office door was closed ( I never keep it closed). It was then that I realized they had got me.
The Jr. High and Sr. High Sunday School classes decided to go crazy in my absence. I dont teach either one, but am present for both, and both teachers decided to prank me. They made signs all over the youth room that said “Lazy-Lazy Ben, Sweet- Sweet Sarah (we love her more)” among others, and then decided to come over to my office and go completely nuts. The girls took several rolls of tinfoil and individually wrapped every item on my desk, and I mean EVERY.ITEM.ON.MY.DESK. Sharpies, my mouse, my computer screen, a jar of peanut butter (which I dont even know where that came from) books, my clock, my stapler, EVERYTHING. And my desk is a mess typically, so i know this took them a while. At that same time, the guys T.P.’ed my entire office, and did a pretty good job of it. It was a complete disaster.
So as soon as I saw my office door shut, my head instantly switched to Jake Rutenbars “Ive Seen it all” video where his kids try and TP his office but instead get the Sr. Pastors, and I was just glad the kids knew which one was mine.
Even better, though, is that while these three were showing me my office, some other kids then went and tp’ed my car! It was unbelievable how badly all of these kids wanted to get me.
Luckily, the kids all stayed to help clean it up to make it easier for me to come into work Monday Morning. We went back out to our bonfire and laughed about it for a few minutes as they shared everything that had happened in the morning, and then plotted out who we should TP next. If nothing else, those three kids grew closer because they were the ones laughing the most.
But the point of it all is that I laughed it off. I could have gotten mad. At first they weren’t going to help me clean it up, which would have been very frustrating for me and my wife, who was already frustrated that so many of the other student leaders weren’t helping clean up after the party. But I would have laughed it off either way, because these kids thought it was awesome, and that I would enjoy it, and if I hadn’t, they would have never done anything like that again, and I WANT them to do those kinds of things.
So Youth Pastors, Laugh. Find enjoyment out of your job today and laugh. And never stop laughing.