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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.

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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.

Call to Youth Ministry

I Really wish you wouldn’t


Please don’t use youth ministry as a stepping stone. I know that there are times when people who are called to Youth Ministry later feel called to be a Sr. Pastor or a Worship Pastor or a church planter.

But if you know you want to be one of those, Please don’t become a Youth Pastor to gain experience. You are ruining kids and churches.

The other Youth Pastors around you know you are a phony, and your kids will hate you when they find out you were just using them.

If you want to be a church planter, go be a church planter, and leave Youth Ministry to those of us who are passionate about it.

Enough with the Pastor Jokes


We all deal with stereotypes in ministry, and we all know it. We all have those middle school guys that play way too many video games and drink way too much caffeine and you want to just ask them to settle down for a few minutes. We all have those girls in our youth ministry that seem to come with a different boyfriend every time they come (whether its weekly or every other month).

And we all have a little bit of tension on occasion with our Sr. Pastor. Sometimes, its just a quick little disagreement, and we move on. Other times it leaves scars. But for the most part, we are all able to laugh it off and move on. I think the majority of Youth Pastors would like a better relationship with their Sr. Pastor, and a majority would like better communication.

But from the experiences we have with our Sr. Pastors arise the stereotypes that we all share. I remember last fall on twitter, there was a user simply called “iamyouthpastor” who primarily did tweets about the dumb stuff pastors say. And they were quite funny because we could all relate. Things like “Will you be using more of that ‘hippity-hop’ music with the youth group? I hear that’s what kids like these days” or maybe “I know you were on that retreat thing all weekend, so feel free to come in a half hour late tomorrow.”

For the most part, we all see the humor in that. For the most part, we can joke about our Pastor because we still respect him and know that he could just as easily joke about us.

In fact, I know that typically they do, which I’m sure isn’t news for  you. Last week I got to go with my Pastor to a Pastors retreat, and had a good laugh along with them all as the speakers continued to poke fun at the youth ministry stereotypes.

But I feel like it can sometimes get out of hand. It’s fun to have a good laugh about these things sometimes because sharing our experiences in a humorous way with others who really truly understand it is a good way of not bottling it up and getting frustrated.

But for those who have been scarred, who are in the midst of that frustration with their Sr. Pastor, these jokes are deathly. It is very fortunate that a majority of Youth Pastors have had just “rough patches” with their Sr. Pastor. But it is also very unfortunate that there are those who are our peers who haven’t had just small rough patches, but have truly been hurt by a boss. The ones who lay awake at night arguing with God because being in ministry wasn’t supposed to be this hard. They knew it would be tough dealing with critics, but they always knew they could take it because they would at least have their pastor supporting them.

And for those guys, these stereotypical pastor jokes are deathly. When they are already licking their wounds, you pouring fuel on their fire does nothing to recharge or renew them.

Unfortunately, I don’t know where we as Youth Pastors go from here. I think to try and say we need to cut all those jokes out is a bit ridiculous, because I think every Youth Ministry should be more Family Centered, but we still have Youth Pastors 20 years behind, so I know the jokes will continue.

And at the same time, those hurting Youth Pastors seldom open up to other youth pastors about it, so we don’t know who we may be hurting with our jokes.

But I know we must be aware of the fact that sometimes our jokes are doing no one any good. If we are aware of the hurt we may be doing, we can change ourselves. And ultimately, thats right where “we” need to start.

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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