Tag Archives: Service

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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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.

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.

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.

Take time to have spiritual renewal

Rest


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.

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