Tag Archives: persistence

When it’s no longer any fun

Being in Ministry can be rough. I initially started this post out as being a Youth Pastor is tough, but having grown up the son of a Pastor and a brother of a Missionary, Youth Pastor, Children’s Pastor, and someone very active in leadership with MOPS, I know that its not just Youth Ministry that is tough.

My heart has been breaking for Ministers the last few days / weeks as I read more and more blog posts about issues in the church, most that don’t even necessarily come from those we minister to, but from those who are supposed to be our partners.

One of my favorite quotes from Mike Yaconelli goes something like ” I am in awe of youth workers, and I think Jesus is too. I just wish the church felt the same.”

I remember in college and a lot of youth ministry books I have read, they always deal with facing the challenges that come with working with parents, because just about every youth worker, I’m sure, has dealt with this.

But the reality for today, I feel, is that the greater challenges come from the Sr. Pastor, or board of Elders. Any number of blogs could be found dealing with the frustrations of Youth Pastors who for whatever reason can’t seem to find harmony with their superiors. And it breaks my heart. I know it breaks God’s heart, too, because this is not what he intended “ministry” to look like.

We are supposed to be able to lock arms with our superiors to fight evil in our communities. We are supposed to be able to be partners in working to bring about Life-change in our neighborhoods. We are supposed to be able to work together.

But the painful truth is that many churches in this country aren’t able to.

And I don’t think there is any “across the board” solution other than deep soul searching by both parties, and an honest conversation with God.

Because in some cases, the Pastor may be the one holding it all back with his arrogance or pride, being set in his ways.

Still, in others, the Youth Pastor really is just a young renegade who saw how one church was doing things and now thinks that if a church isn’t doing it that same way, they are wrong and old fashioned.

Whatever it may be though, many of our peers our hurting. If you are one of those youth workers lucky enough to love your church where you are serving, you have no problem calling it home, and you love working with your superiors, then be thankful for it, and pray for our comrades.

If you are one of those hurting, who has reached the point where Ministry isn’t fun anymore, its not worth it anymore, you know your called to serve but you can’t serve where you are for much longer because it is sucking the life out of you, I’d love to talk, I’d love to connect in some way and share stories and hear your frustrations. Because honestly, sometimes just letting them off our chest to someone else who can relate makes it possible to stay another week, believe me I have been there before.

But know this – God has a plan. I know we all know this. I know we tell our students this constantly. But we have to hold on to that hope that even in the messed up circumstances Youth Pastors can sometimes be in, God is at work.


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.

Take time to have spiritual renewal


Apparently, my body was much more tired than I thought it was from the last few weeks of going, because today I didn’t wake up until 2 pm.

My body needed rest and today it got it.

I find it very interesting that God designed our bodies to shut down when they need rest. Like you can’t stay awake for too long before things in your body begin to shut down and find the rest they need.

It’s amazing, though, that it’s not the sort of deal that you could, say stay up continuously from monday morning until friday evening and then make up for it by sleeping friday evening until monday morning. Our bodies wont work that way, they can’t function that way.

I remember when I was in college on the Debate team, we had tournaments in the fall just about every weekend, and the amount of energy and time the debate team took was just as much as a full time job, only we were all full time students as well. So what would end up happening is that a few of us inevitably would go to the Debate Lab (section of main university building with offices, computer lab, lecture rooms and cubicles) on tuesday after class, stay there all night working on homework/debate stuff until wednesday classes, go back to the debate lab and work until thursday classes, then get on the bus and sleep for the first time since Tuesday morning. I think this is what really instilled in me my addiction to starbucks.

But I remember one time doing this same pattern just on an off week, but extending it a day to friday, and going to sleep friday afternoon with the intent of just taking a nap and getting up in time to go see a movie with my friends. So I go to sleep at about 3:30 pm and wake up and my clock says 6:00 pm. I figured great, I feel so rested with just that, plenty of time before the movie starts. I headed out of my room and discovered my friends getting ready to go…to the football game. It was Saturday, I had slept nearly 27 hours straight!

So whats the point of all of this. And I know its somewhat contradicting because I said we can live that way but I just showed a week where I did. And I hope it goes without saying, you can’t LIVE that way, you can get by for a few weeks, but you cant live like that. It’s miserable.

Well I say all this because I know that many students live this way spiritually, and I fear that many in ministry do as well.

Part of our Sabbath is meant to renew our souls, to reconnect with God. But many times, we are too busy to not be busy. So we push it off to the side, we consider lesson preparation our quiet time, we rush through our prayers, and we don’t take time to really focus on why we are doing what we are “doing for the Lord.” Then, when we do get those moments, we try and get so much out of them to make up for the times we missed.

But this is no way to Live. I wish our spiritual lives would sometimes shut down on their own to get the rest they truly need because we too often ignore the warning signs that our tank is getting low. We need to take sabbath. We need to daily connect with God and be renewed by him. We can’t allow ourselves to be so busy doing things for the Lord that in the end we don’t do anything for the Lord.

I know as Pastors we know this. But we also all know to go to bed every night, but we still get tired.

Under Pressure

Have you ever gotten lost in the pressures and demands on us as Youth Pastors? Pressure is EVERYWHERE. A favorite professor of mine used to say “Being a Pastor is a much more stressful job than an airplane pilot. If an airplane pilot makes a mistake, a hundred people or so die. If a Pastor makes a mistake, people can go to Hell.”

And though there are things that could be argued about that statement, sure, the point of it still is there. We have a burden on us that can weigh us down if we dwell on it. So dwelling on it can be bad, but the opposite is just as true. If you never consider it, your ministry is pointless.

Then there here is the enormous pressure on Youth Pastors to be Great. Its an awesome pressure, we should always strive to be great. But sometimes it has its downsides, too. We try to copy what that awesome youth group down the street is, only to discover it wont work in our context, or it can’t work here. Or we put in so many office hours our personal lives disintegrate.

We get this pressure from everywhere, from our superiors, from other Youth Pastors, from Parents, and we feel like we aren’t quite every reaching their expectations, and so to admit failure to them could cost us our job. To not appear as being great, thats risky, I get it.

But be the change agent. Learn to say No and Learn to admit your mistakes, stop the cycle.

Your supervisors? They want you to be real. They want you to admit you make mistakes, because odds are they already see them. Other Youth Pastors? You don’t need to impress them with the numbers you think you have in your ministry. Whenever a Youth Pastor tells me the size of their group, I subtract 10% because I know how we all are. Parents? For the most part, they trust you and respect you, even when you don’t feel like they do. They want you to succeed. But success comes through failures more often than not.

How many people are bandwagon Yankees fans when they are in the world series? Not a lot. But how many people were Red Sox fans in 2004? Just about everyone. Because everyone wanted to see them succeed.

So let this be an encouragement to you. Be Great in the Lord, not in yourself. Succeed for the Lord, not for anyone else. Seek him and the rest will fall into place. At the end of the day, he is the only one whom it matters if you have pleased. Just live with that pressure, the rest will fade away after.

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