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Youth Ministry is Like High School Football

 —  August 27, 2013 — 2 Comments

HS football


Believe it or not, I played high school football. And even though I entered high school assuming I’d be a wide receiver, since that’s what I had played in Pop Warner, I was quickly tapped as a running back…mostly because I was the only one on the freshman team who knew how to hold my hands when receiving a hand-off! One of the first lessons my new running backs coach taught me was this: ALWAYS FALL FORWARD. It’s assumed a running back is going to get tackled, but the goal is to always fall forward…for positive yardage…on your way down.

I think this principle applies well to youth ministry, too.

Far too many youth workers are afraid of “falling.” For many, there is fear or shame associated with making a mistake, an event not being as awesome as it could have been, a lesson flopping, or a parent being frustrated with a decision made. Falling down is part of the game, friends! When you were tapped to be a youth worker, it’s assumed that you will get tackled from time to time. Just do your best to fall forward.

How to “fall forward” in youth ministry:

  • Identify what caused you to fall.  Was there an avoidable mistake made? Can it be prevented next time?
  • Learn from it. If there was an avoidable mistake made that can be prevented next time, what do you need to learn? What contributed to the mistake? What role did you play? How can you grow through the experience?
  • Turn it into positive yardage.  Believe it or not, falling can result in positive yardage for your youth ministry! Oftentimes our failures can be springboards for greater success! Some examples?

–        Your first-ever parent meeting has one parent show up…but you’ve now taken the first step in ministering to the parents of teenagers in your church! Positive yardage.

–        Your first-ever object lesson landed with a thud…but you noticed that students were actually paying attention during the attempt! Positive yardage.

–        Your senior pastor pulls you aside to share his “concerns” about what happened at youth group last night…but for once he’s paying attention! Positive yardage.

As the new school year, along with another season of football, kicks off, quit worrying so much about falling down…instead focus on falling forward.


Kurt Johnston

Kurt Johnston


Kurt Johnston leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. His ministry of choice, however, is junior high, where he spends approximately 83.4% of his time.

2 responses to Youth Ministry is Like High School Football

  1. Great imagery. The “falling forward” phrase/image is helpful. Sometimes we forget the sufficiency of God’s grace should we fall and think it’s all up to us.

  2. Thank you for the encouraging words. So many, including myself, are afraid to fail or make mistakes. We forget that it is our nature and the best thing we can do is learn from them and grow.

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