Tag Archives: Leadership

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.

My dad


This post will probably not get me any traffic, but I dont care. Im not in it for traffic, I blog because it sharpens me as a leader.

And I know my dad most likely wont ever see this, because he never visits my site. But I dont care, because I’m not writing it to please him.

But we all have that one person we look up to more than anything, whether its for advice, as a role model, whatever. And I consider myself the luckiest person in the world that that person for me is my father.

Tonight I spent a great deal of time watching videos from his church on youtube, and I am blown away by his heart for people and ministry and God. I remember when he was candidating for this particular job several years ago, and the search team called me in for an interview, and how later they said that one of the main reasons they hired my dad was because of me, because they saw that since I seemed so clearly Christ centered, it spoke volumes of the character of my dad (which is why I still feel today that the most important trait of an elder/overseer/ pastor is the point Paul makes about managing his household well).

I remember back then feeling super arrogant about that, as though it spoke about my character. I teased my parents for a while, since I had no car, that since I got my Dad the job, in essence, the least they could do was to buy me a car.

But that statement/sentiment had absolutely nothing to do with me, but had everything to do with my parents. It spoke nothing of my character or leadership, but spoke volumes of theirs.

When it comes down to it, this should be an accurate portrayal of our relationship with our heavenly father. I believe it was Spurgeon who once said “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” People we lead to Christ should be led to Christ because they see his beauty shining through us. They should think that since we so clearly love the Lord, the Lord must be great, because in the end, he is. I dont want to lead people to the Lord because I have a great life and if they become Christians, they can too. I want to lead people to the Lord because they see him in me.

To close it up, I pray that some day I can be as great as a Father as my Dad was to me and my siblings. I look at my siblings and am utterly amazed that of the 5 of us, all have served or are currently serving in ministry. Thats rare. I don’t say that to show off about my family, but to say, my Parents were amazing Parents. I pray I can be a fifth as effective as they were in ministering to my family some day. I know I married a woman just like my mom, I just pray I can someday be just like my dad.

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.

When tool’s are no longer tools


One of my frustrations is that I don’t think I am a good small group teacher. Every week, I pour into a lesson, then the night comes, we go through the lesson, I ask some questions which students give answers too, and thats it. There isn’t a whole lot of conversation that comes from the lesson. But every week, with out fail, we close in prayer and say Amen, and then discussion starts about who knows what.

Last night, we got, somehow, on the topic of tracts. Now I personally am extremely against tracts. I think one of the reasons why I hate them is because of living in Lynchburg, VA the last 4 or 5 years, and just seeing how waiters and waitresses hated working on Sunday afternoons because the church folk would come out and instead of leaving a tip, they would leave a tract.

I think the main reason why I hate them, though, is because to me they symbolize the weakness of the american church when it comes to discipleship, because in essence, when most people give out a tract, they are saying to the person receiving it “Here, Go save yourself. Good luck with the rest of life.”

What’s frustrating about that is that the great commission doesn’t say “Go out and make converts” but rather it says “Go and make disciples.” Handing someone a tract is something that people do if they are trying to just get people saved and then they move on.

So I hate tracts with a passion.

But as I am explaining this to our students, my wife butts in to tell of how her Mother got saved because of a tract. But she also noted that it wasn’t just the tract that saved her, but the people who gave her the tract went through it with her, and invited her to church and to their home.

See for this couple that saved my mother-in-law, a tract served a purpose for their discipleship, it led to a further conversation. But for many who hand out tracts, this idea is foreign.

So it got me thinking about the idea that maybe its not necessarily tracts that I hate, but the fact that people don’t know how to use them that I hate. And that got me going on one of the buzzwords that has been going around youth ministry the last decade or so: Programs.

If you have read anything Youth Ministry related since 2000, you have read how evil programs are and we need to get rid of them. The Pizza nights don’t serve a purpose and aren’t making any converts or disciples. “What you save people with is what you save people to.” You know what I am talking about.

But if my mother-in-law got saved with a tract, shouldn’t she still be only reading tracts?

I get the notion of that saying, I do. But I also think, maybe we are just a little off with that sort of thinking. Maybe we need to realize that there are tools we can use to get people saved. But if something doesn’t have a clear purpose behind it to move that person to the next level, then yeah, we are just saving them to that level.

So if a tract has a purpose of starting a conversation to open doors for other conversations, then it has a purpose. If we just hand someone a tract and walk away praying “God let them see you in that tract” then yeah, maybe we have great faith, but we really aren’t being purposeful.

In that same way, If I am having a Pizza night to bring in students who don’t come to my ministry so that I can build a relationship with them and get them back to a regular youth service, then I think Pizza Nights are great tools. But if the Pizza Night is the end of the line, If I get up and think “this is my one chance to reach these kids, I better preach the heck out of them right now,” then I would say thats a bad purpose. I’m not pouring into them, I’m just hoping to get them to say a prayer and then maybe they will come back.

I don’t know if that resonates with you. But these are just the thoughts I get challenged with after hanging out with my students.

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