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5 Easy Excuses for sub-par Youth Ministry


One of the lies that is easy to buy into, particularly for new Youth Pastors in small towns, is that our ministries are not as effective as others. I mean, this past week, my dad sent me the video his youth pastor made at their church for their Student Ministries Promo, and man, it made you want to be a part of that ministry. It was awesome! There was evidence of lives being changed, kids coming to Christ, Parents supporting the ministry. It was enough to make one jealous.

So if you are feeling in the dumps about the effectiveness of your Ministry, here are five simple excuses to help you feel better about yourself and help your supervisors understand why your not having the same results as down the street;

1. Facilities – if I just had better facilities, we could do so much more.

2. Volunteers – if we just had more volunteers, we could do so much more
3. Student leaders – if I just had some student leaders, we could do so much more
4. Time – if I just had more time, we could do so much more
5. Budget – if we just had more money, we could do so much more
The problem here is that these are all valid excuses. We could do more in our ministries if we had bigger spaces, bigger budgets, and more bodies.
But be that as it may, God doesn’t care. When it all boils down, God has placed you in your specific ministry in your specific church with your specific context to do his specific work. Just because there are other youth groups that can afford to give away iPad’s for door prizes doesn’t mean that that is what your called to do.
Does that mean we shouldn’t seek those things? Absolutely not. You could do more with more space and more money and more bodies.
But should that be an excuse to run a sub-par ministry? Absolutely not. If you can’t find a way to make what you have run effectively, you stand no chance of being more effective with those things.
So quit making excuses, quit being content with sub-par youth events, and make the most with what God has already entrusted you with.
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Big Church Envy


If you ever have a disagreement with someone and you want to win, just call them prideful. It’s flawless, because from that point on, anything they say is just their pride swelling up. As long as your the first person to play the pride card, you win, every time.

So say your having a disagreement over the vision of a ministry with someone, they aren’t seeing things the way you see them, just blame it on their pride. Case closed.

I hate that. Because unfortunately, more often than not, the person who plays that card is the one who’s pride is really in the way. Sure, there can be exceptions, but if you play that card, you better check yourself.

I got that card played on me a while back and it infuriated me. There was a real issue that needed to be fixed and is still yet to be fixed because of pride. I knew my intentions and motives going in, and they weren’t flowing from my pride.

But it did get me searching for ways I was being prideful, and unfortunately as a Human being, pride is always to be found.

I take pride in my education. I feel this is a good kind of pride, for the most part, because be it as it may, graduates from my school are sought after more than any other Christian college, and so being able to say I hold my degree from there gives me a bit of a swagger, which can be good or bad.

One of the negative ways it plays out, however, can definitely come out quite a bit. I am blessed to still keep in touch with my old class mates and see them in thriving ministries. It’s amazing to me that some of the guys I was in class with have been able to achieve some of the things they have done right out of college. It’s amazing to me how many went from classes and very little experience to big churches in big cities with established healthy ministries.

Unfortunately, I can often become envious of them. Being in a small town in a small church and seeing several of my good friends with less experience than I have graduate at the same time as me and get job offers from great, large churches, where as Im having to build in an extremely small town with what sometimes feels as not the greatest support, it can cause me to be jealous.

But I feel like this is something every small town youth pastor deals with. There is this unfortunate myth that small town student ministry isn’t as good, isn’t as important, isn’t as effective. We may not every even outright say that, but if we looked at our ministries, its being yelled.

I could never do that, my church is too small. I could never make a an atmosphere  in our youth services that beckons for visitors, I don’t have the resources. I could never plan as great of a camp as that church, I don’t have the time. Whatever it is that you feel you can’t do because of your context.

And though some of it may be true, and some of it may be unnecessary (like how I think it would be awesome to incorporate video’s into our pre-message every week, thats not necessarily important, nor do I have the time to invest in that because there are other important things to get done.)

So though that may be true, its also false, because there are things we could do, we just aren’t. We have boughten into the myth that our ministry can’t be as great as first united church down the street, so we stop trying those things and get content with what we have.

This is a very dumbed down sentence to describe it, so don’t hold this against me, but the #1 thing that grows any ministry is its leadership. I say its dumbed down because you could come back and say ” Well what about relationship with Christ, or biblical dependency, etc. etc.”

A real leader in a ministry already has that, its a given. But whats missing from that is the leadership attributes such as Vision, Delegation, Mobilization. A real leader in youth ministry will not only be teaching his students the bible, but also the vision of them mobilized to make a difference in their school. A real leader will give their students a purpose that is more than showing up on Sunday or Wednesday nights.

If you want to see your ministry grow, your students need to grow. And if you want to see your students grow, then you need to grow. Continually.

Small Church Youth Group

Differences between Small Town vs. Large City


I was recently asked a question on quora that dealt with the differences between trying to minister to students in a small town compared to a large city, and since I know that not many people are on quora yet, I figured I would share my answer on here as well.

And though there are a number of differences, this one seemed the most relevant for me today. And maybe it’s because it forced me to realize something that maybe I hadn’t really thought about much before, but I know that this is one of the major differences.

I poke fun at this one because on the one hand, its stupid and I am obnoxiously sarcastic some times, but it also holds quite a bit of weight. It’s the idea of a congregational place.

Now when you mention a word like “congregation” to people in a church, they think you are referring to a church building, which small towns have plenty of.

But I am talking about places where teens or adults can congregate together. Some examples would be the mall, a starbucks, a panera, the movie theatre. Some place where you can congregate together.

I remember my first year in youth ministry in a suburb of Chicago. I was just 18, and still very naive (which isn’t to say I’m not still today). I was attending college and working as a Jr. High Youth Pastor about a half hour away, and I remember how easy it would be to send out a mass text (this was when only college students could get on facebook still, in fact, my college had JUST gotten facebook, which kind of shows how young I am). But I could send out a mass text to my students simply saying “I’ll be at the movie theatre at 7, first 5 there get a free ticket to see ***** with me.” And I’d have a group of students there.

At another position, I could do this as well, say “Uno at Panera 7 o’clock tonight!” and a group would be there.

But here, in a small town that has no congregational places, this is next to impossible.

And so I got kind of bothered as I thought about this. Because you read posts on sites like youth ministry 360 or Youth Workers Journal where they have a guy write about Small Town Student Ministry, and when I read them, I don’t see someone who actually works in a small town, but more a guy just trying to somewhat give us comfort, especially the posts about how small youth groups are what the big churches want to do, so we got it right. Really? We got it right? It’s like they are trying to make us feel better because we serve in some lowly small town church, but if we were in a big church, we would be trying to get it smaller. It gets me frustrated, but I won’t get into all of that.

But the point they are usually trying to make is that small youth groups are more relational than large youth groups, and its evident because the large groups are always trying to find ways to get smaller.

And so I would somewhat agree, Small Church Youth Groups are a bit more relational, everyone knows everyone. But that isn’t always necessarily better, because sometimes the kids know too much about each other and fight about it, as well as the fact that just because the kids are more relational in the fact that they know more about each other, it doesn’t mean they have great community and they really know each other.

But the main point of difference is that sure, the smaller youth groups are better prepared to be more relational because they are already small. But, the Youth Pastors of smaller youth groups in small towns have to work harder than those in larger churches to get true community, because we can’t rely on congregational spaces, and we have to overcome what the kids already “know” about each other and get them to really know each other.

Small Church Youth Group


I don’t like to be told I can’t do something, I feel like when I’m told I can’t do something, thats  the one thing I want to do.

Now obviously, I don’t feel this way about everything. If you were to tell me I can’t murder someone, I’m not going to go out and want to murder someone (though sometimes, we feel that way towards the students in our ministry).

But I think it has been shown for this to be true for a majority of people. I mean how many movies are all about someone beating the odds. In Lost we see John Locke in the earlier seasons repeatedly telling people “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do.” And it brings up all sorts of emotions/encouragement/whatever.

We see it in movies like Miracle, Ray, and even sandlot.

But it seems to me as though Youth Pastors in small towns, no matter how much they feel this way towards most of the things in their life, forget this attitude in ministry.

I’m sitting here in North Carolina at the Transformational Church retreat/conference and am attending the affinity group for Youth Pastors. And I feel like I have over heard a number of them say something along the lines of “We could never do that, were not big enough” or “we could never do that, we don’t have the budget” among other things.

Where’s our sense of beating the odds?

Where’s our sense of trusting God to do the improbable? And yes, maybe I am talking a little bit about things like building a Youth Pastor’s Secret Lair of Awesomeness and youth pastors not thinking they have the budget for those things, or Youth groups not thinking they can do certain things with their group like laser tag trips or missions trips. Those things that aren’t necessarily needed in youth ministry, but things we would love to do if we could.

Like I feel sometimes like some of us Youth Pastors in small youth groups feel we could never have a video ministry. We could never do some of the stuff these other youth groups do.

And part of me wants to say if you only want to do something because you saw another youth group do it, don’t do it. But odds are you wouldn’t be able to anyways, because you don’t have the passion for it.

But if you see something that another youth group has done, and you get its purpose and think “we gotta do that,” don’t let the stigmas of being a “small church youth group” hold you back. Find a way to get it done, because you can. Any youth group can do the things that any other youth group does. And sure, they may not be as good, but we aren’t doing them to try and do them better.

Planning a Weekend Service


I don’t know how you do your services, but ours are basically the generic Youth Service you’d find at any church on a Sunday or Wednesday Night. Now sure, every once in a while we change things up ( I try to throw in a Game Night every other month, a coffee house night every once a while, and in the fall I hope to begin a worship night mix as well), but for the most part, just about every Sunday Night looks identical in form for us.

And odds are it is for you, too.

One of the biggest challenges of working in a  Small Town/Small Church is that for the most part, it’s just you. I would LOVE to have a team of volunteers helping out so much that all I had to do was write a lesson and hang out with kids all week, doing life together. But God has me here, and he has you where you are. So if you are like me and you struggle with getting everything done, than maybe this form can help out.

That link will send you to the Photoshop file for something I made to write a quick outline of the service. I try and have these all done about a month in advance, it just fits in with my teaching calendar and makes life a whole heck of a lot easier the weeks of. If you don’t have photoshop, click here for a non editable .jpg version that you can just print out and fill in by hand.

Here is an example of this weekend for us.

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