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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.

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.

Being all alone in Youth Ministry Part 2 – Boundaries


Last week I touched on Loneliness being one of the negatives of being the only person working with your youth ministry. Today’s danger is much like last weeks in the sense that every Youth Pastor/Leader needs to be aware of it, but its especially true in smaller towns where you are the only one working with the youth.

Boundaries are meant to protect yourself, no matter what they are. Whether you are setting boundaries to protect your time, boundaries to protect your relationships, whatever it is, they are meant for your good.

The last few weeks I have explained some of my boundaries to other people, they aren’t really things I felt to go around sharing unless I needed to explain. And each time, they were met with opposition, which was extremely surprising to me. I mean, if there is one thing they don’t tell you in college or in books when they talk about establishing boundaries, its that people will oppose them.

And I mean, these weren’t even harsh boundaries, but things like “I’m not going to be out of the house for ministry more than 3 nights a week, 4 nights on rare exception.” I couldn’t believe there would be people who had a problem with that. But there were. They understand now, after more communication.

They would have, at first, liked me to get rid of that, but I also have seen what can happen to youth pastors marriages when they don’t stick to boundaries.

But those are all issues that every youth pastor faces. What makes it especially challenging working as the only leader is when it comes to boundaries with students of the opposite sex. Because as a guy, I need to have boundaries with the girls in the ministry. Not because I would do anything in-appropriate, but to protect myself in case they said anything.

Something I love about the iPhone is that it records all of my text messages. But I have no way of printing them or truly keeping track of them. So I love Simply Youth Ministry Tools Communicate (formerly Simply Txt) because it does record every text that is sent, and it can be printed. Because again, not that I would do anything inappropriate, but if a student tries saying “He was sending me inappropriate texts” I have proof that I wasnt.

The whole idea here is being above reproach. To naively do ministry without boundaries could be setting yourself up for failure. Unfortunately its the risk that something could go wrong. Most Youth Pastors are innocent and very well intentioned. The sad truth is that there have been Youth Leaders who have made stupid mistakes, and the rest of us have to be aware of those consequences. If you aren’t doing ministry with established boundaries, set some up, and adhere to them.

It only takes one time of not being able to prove you didn’t do something to destroy your ministry. So Live above reproach.

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.

Being all alone in Youth Ministry Part 1 – Loneliness


A few months back, I wrote a post for Tim Schmoyer‘s list of 100 topics we should write about, and it dealt with leading a youth group when your the only volunteer.

It’s a decent post, it gets the point across, and it gives, in my mind, some helpful tips for leading a youth group when your the only volunteer, which is good.

But I think it fails to address the concerns of being the only leader, and I wanted to touch base on a few of those, because there are some things you need to keep an eye on if this is you. So for the next few weeks, I want to dive more in depth into some of the issues that come with being the only leader in a youth ministry.

The first issue in Small Town Student Ministry is Loneliness. Being the only adult leader is extremely lonely. Right now, we are developing some other leaders, and my wife has really stepped up into being the best volunteer ever. But something that I still am lacking in my leadership of the team is a real sense of Unity, one oneness. We know each other, but we don’t really all know each other. And I understand that you can’t always have a team, and that finding a group to help you out is tough, so I am not simply saying find other leaders, I know that is easier said than done.

But the fact of the matter is, I now have a team with me, and I still feel lonely sometimes. It still on occasion feels like I’m the only one pouring into these kids, with exception to my wife, and that if push came to shove I’d be the only one available to do some of these things. This is just one instance of the loneliness that there is in Youth Ministry, and if your the only volunteer, this feeling can be 100x stronger than it is for me. Another thing that is easier said than done is finding a network of other youth pastors, but this is key, and if not them, then even going to your Sr. Pastor is what you need to do. Find someone you can go to that is on your “team,” someone who is just as passionate about the next generation, that you can throw ideas and concerns off of.

And I know you may be thinking “that’s not my Sr. Pastor.” But I would really encourage you to get rid of that mindset. The truth is, you have no idea how passionate about the next generation your Sr. Pastor really is until you really actually ask him. And if it turns out that for some reason, he isn’t that passionate about him, keep sharing. Have a passion that is passed on to him.

In the end, this is something you should be doing regardless of if you have a youth leader network, because your Sr. Pastor needs to know whats going on with you and your ministry, and he needs to be part of your team. He may not be able to make it to any of your youth events or services, but he should be one of your greatest Team members. If he isn’t, its nothing he has done, but rather, its your lack of involving him.

So being alone is something Youth Pastors in small town student ministry feel very heavily, I get that, and I know the dangers of it. So I urge you to find teammates. Find people who you can count on to be there for you when you need them, not just in the physical sense, but the spiritual one as well.

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