Tag Archives: Trenton
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.

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.

Serving in a small town ministry

A little honesty goes a long way

I assume that at some point, we all go through experiences like this. Those times where we know something to be true but don’t live it out in our lives. Like we all know we should pray and read our bible, but there can be huge chunks of time in our lives where we don’t. And I think its after those moments of realization that we learn the most and are shaped the most.

If I am honest with myself, there is something I was being hypocritical about for the past few months or so. I always try and encourage other youth pastors to live this, and I expect it out of churches and Pastors, to the point of frustration. It’s something I encourage my students to live, and its something I encourage christians in general whom I talk to to live.

It’s the simple idea that Jesus commanded us, Love our neighbor. Romans 8:28 tells us that “In all things, Christ works for the good of those who believe in him” and I have often taken that to mean, in essence, God has a plan for everything. It doesn’t always mean its going to make us happy in the moment, but it means that no matter what, God’s plan is in action.

Part of that is the notion that Where you live, where you work, the roads you drive, the people you interact with at starbucks as you wait in line to order your cappuccino, its all part of God’s plan. God has placed you in the neighborhood he has placed you in for a distinct purpose; to be the Good news in that neighborhood.

If I am honest with myself, I haven’t been living this out. I moved to this Small Town from big towns, growing up in rather large cities, seeing ministry done in large city settings, doing ministry myself in larger cities.

And if I am even more honest with myself, it frustrated me to see peers graduating from the same college I did with the same education going right out of college into large churches in large cities. Even a half hour down the road in the biggest church around is a Liberty grad. And I have students in my Youth Ministry who go to Sunday Morning church and Sunday school at that church, and have Sunday school with that person and then come to our Sunday night program and tell me about all the cool and great things that are going on there.

And it sometimes can make me jealous. I mean, I wish I had a huge youth room that was full of sack chairs and adult volunteers who got youth ministry and were loving on the kids without having to be trained as much as I feel I need to train some of my volunteers.

I wish our ministry had vans and I could do some of the trips I would like to do that our almost impossible to do without large vans.

I wish I wish  I wish.

But God has placed me at the church I am at in the town where we are for his purposes. I can choose to seek his will or try and do my own thing my own way, but only one of those will be successful, and it doesn’t involve the word “my.”

So if Im honest with myself, I see that I have a sweet set up. I have a God who has places me in this unique area for a unique purpose, and If I allow him, he can use me , even in a small town, to do great things. Not great things for myself, but great things for his kingdom.


Small Town Benefit #1 – It’s Small

So the last few months, I have had my friday’s frustration about serving in a small town. But last week, as I laid out my schedule of posts for the next few weeks, I decided to do some benefits of small town ministry before I got into any more downsides.

One of the best things about serving in a small town is just that, its a small town. For many in the town, there is a real sense of community. When my Wife and I were looking at houses, it was amusing to hear Trenton Natives tell us every family that had lived in a particular house, and that they knew all that was interesting, and really made us feel like we were moving to a good ol’ little All American town, the kind of place where you picture they would film leave it to Beaver if they still filmed that show.

The real benefit is the closeness of all of the kids. To be able to ride my bike to the houses of 90% of the students in my Youth Ministry has been great for building relationships with them and their parents.

Further, I love how safe I feel in the town. One of my favorite parts of my day is close to 11 p.m. when I take Max, our black lab, for a long walk. I love it because its a time for me to just talk with the Lord, pray, worship, or listen to the Simply Youth Ministry Podcast. There have been many times the past few months where those times have kept my sanity in tact.

And this comes back to the closeness of the students. I can spend just an hour walking, and pass by the houses of again, almost 90% of my students. I love the ability to stop in front of their house and say a little prayer over them and their family and move on. And I love knowing that at most I’m only going to pass 2 cars in that whole hour. The quietness and stillness of it all is something magical. The views are breathtaking. Yes, its very flat here, but not being in a populated area, I can see millions and millions of stars. Any time I start to feel arrogant I can go out that night and be humbled of how small I am, and I love those conversations with God.

And thats what I love most about living in a small town. What do you love most about serving where you are?

Friday’s Frustration – 12.10.10

Every Friday I post a frustration of living in a small town having grown up in a big city. Usually it has nothing to do with ministry, but rather is just an annoyance about small town culture.

This one may not be true in every small town, but it most definitely is in Trenton. We have one paved road in town, the rest are all gravel. Our church parking lot is gravel, as is 90% of the parking lots in this town.

Why does that frustrate me? Really only for 2 reasons. You can’t really run on gravel roads for long distances, at least I cant. It kills my knees. The second reason for why it frustrates me is because its hard to ride a bike on gravel roads, particularly a road bike. So two forms of exercise for me are taken away.

My favorite two methods of cardio are road bikes and swimming, and I so for me to not be able to do those, its very hard to motivate myself to do any sort of excercise. There is no gym, there is no walking trail, there is nothing.

So today Im frustrated because this small town is causing me to get out of shape. Now excuse me while I go eat my feelings.

*Note: Sarcasm

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