my favorite part of being wrong is when I admit it out loud.

That may seem like the average person’s least favorite moment.

Let me explain why I feel the opposite about it.

When you’re wrong, there’s usually someone who is passionately trying to point it out to you. Perhaps they’re on a mission to highlight what is plain to them that you’ve somehow been blind to. They’re attempting to get you to be mature or responsible about something you may have been immature or shortsighted about.

This tends to amplify when they feel you wronged them.

On your end, it’s likely not easy to admit that you missed something or made another person feel awkward. This is why when you actually do own it as a genuine step of maturity to the situation or the relationship… something amazing and unexpected happens.

The other person is also now tasked to choose if they’re going to be mature or immature in response to your response.

coneofshameAgain, this individual was on a quest to point out something you missed. In doing so, they situationally claimed the high ground – perhaps for all the right reasons, or maybe for the wrong reasons. They may not have even expected you to own it.

Only… you did. They had a great point. You confessed it, along with a desire to grow.

This is where it’s revealed if that person truly is a friend who will stick with you into the next curve or simply was a critic who wanted to lay a zinger on you. You once were being small in not owning something big, and now that person has to decide what they’re going to do with your mature ability to own your immaturity.

Unfortunately, this is where many conscious accusers become unconsciously divided.

  • They have nothing new left to say… yet they don’t know what to now do with any remnants of the unspoken negativity they felt toward you seconds earlier.
  • They have nothing left to point out… yet find themselves still wanting to be a critical spirit when they generally look at you.
  • They have nothing left to get you to admit… yet find themselves wanting to become your personal “life coach” and show you other things you’ve been blind to.

I adore this moment, not because I’m waiting to see if the accuser will be hypocritical… but because what once was a one-sided pursuit in my direction gets to be a defining moment in every direction of the relationship.

Will the person who felt you were wayward choose to let it go and walk into the future with you?

(By the way – think about how you handle this when you’re the one trying to expose another person to something they’re blind to.)

Reconcile_With_One_AnotherThe reason this is a defining moment?

Because it shows what the relationship is really made of and if two Christ-followers will keep following Christ together. Jesus said in the Lord’s Prayer that we should pray for forgiveness from God that is equal to the way we’ve forgiven other people who have wronged us:

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12)

So the best part about being wrong?

It’s an opportunity for everyone involved to put Jesus on display in what happens next between those involved.

Then again…

I could be wrong.



Recently I got a call from a former student who was struggling in their faith. Honestly, it was greater than that. They made the decision that the “cost of following Christ” was just too great. Life was not working out the way they had hoped. Trials had come and as Jesus himself predicted of some, the thorns had choked the life away. My heart broke as we spoke. This had been a student who was entirely “on fire for the Lord” not only through High School, but also through their first years of college. The student told me it was just “too hard” to live the way Jesus wanted them to, He continued to let them down anyway so they were walking away from Him.

In the same week I opened up the paper to see the mug shot of another former student. When he was in Junior High a family tragedy had forever changed his attitude about life. Two summers ago he came back to our programming for a short time, and I had been encouraged. Then once again he dropped out of sight, and we couldn’t find him. That is until he has been arrested for armed robbery.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. I have had other students make life choices that have forever altered their path. Former students have been murdered, committed suicide, joined gangs, ended up in abusive relationships, and become addicts among other things. Each time there is something inside me that feels like I am the one who failed.

Before you tell me I’m not, I know all the right answers. I am the first person to remind others in ministry that we are never the Savior of anyone and Jesus is bigger than us or the students for that matter. However, I can’t help it. I feel like I could have “done” more. I couldn’t even tell you what the “more” is every time.

As these two events collided this week I started to wallow at my “lack” of success. This is when my husband reminded me of a vital truth, “These are their choices. This has nothing to do with your success or failure in life, and certainly not your failure or success with Jesus.” 

How easily I forget. I can so easily make their decision about me. I should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, it has nothing to do with us at all. The beauty in God creating us with the ability to choose, is we are given the ability to be in relationship with Him. The ugly side, of course, is that we can also choose to do our own thing.

I think I need to remember how easy it would be for me to walk away from the Lord as well. As CS Lewis once said, “Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had ever been done.” The problem in running from God is that we look over and He is running with us.

So what I can do is to pray. Pray and realize my success comes the moment I show up and choose to be with Jesus again today. Pray that my students would realize the same for themselves. Pray you would remember for yourself.  Pray I would choose to believe what I wrote.

How do you deal with the days you feel like a failure?



This month we’re introducing a new series here on the Simply Youth Ministry Today newsletter. It is called Top 3 and we’re kicking off this week with our Top 3 epic youth ministry fails. Thought you would like that one!

1) Every so often we play a video clip as part of the message and in one particularly tragic service we played the video clip a team member had made for me (Josh). Like an idiot I hadn’t previewed the clip from Tommy Boy and the very last sentence of the excerpt involved a joke about the size of the guys…sailboat. Needless to say, it would go on to be one of my most epic fails of all time. I ended the message with, “It sure has been great being your pastor.” Hahahah!

2) I (Kurt) was a 22-year-old rookie junior high pastor on my way to a youth group New Year’s Eve party with a carload of kids. I happened to have surf racks on my car and one of the 8th grade boys happened to be highly adventurous…which turned out to be a bad combination. I pulled over, strapped the student into my surf racks, and proceeded to drive 5 miles through town to the party. Luckily it was before the days of cell phones, Instagram, and every move being instantaneously captured. Other than a fairly harsh tongue lashing from the high school pastor (why do they always think they’re so much more spiritual?), there was no damage done.

3) To make a long story short: I (Kurt) was on staff at Saddleback for one month when I accidentally left a student in the stadium after an Arena Football League game. I counted…just not accurately.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

After my first year in ministry my church staff went on a retreat to do some vision casting and team building.  During our time together the question was asked, “Where do you see your ministry in five years?”  It’s a question many of us have heard before from teachers, and interviewers.  It encourages us to think big, because no one wants to say, “I see myself doing the same thing as now.”  It just doesn’t sound attractive or cool.  When you hear that question you want to respond with something big.  I did, I responded, “I want us to have our own youth building.”  It’s a pretty bold goal considering a building would mean that I would need hundreds of teens to fill it, the staff to run it and at the time our entire church staff was only 4 people.  7 years later and we still share space with the children’s ministry.

Most of us want to answer that question with something big; however, we are afraid that it might not happen or that people will mock it.  On top of our fears our big dreams don’t come true because we don’t:

Give It To God:  You need Him to guide you, direct you and show you where to make the bold moves.  You need Him to give you the people and resources.  You need Him to pick you up when you fail.  Give your dreams to God and allow Him to tell you whether or not it is going to come true.  And if it doesn’t He’s got something bigger for you.

Make Failure An Option – When dreaming big, know that there is a slight chance that things will either not go according to plan or not happen at all.  Dreaming big isn’t about being foolish it’s about realizing that God is in control.  It’s about figuring out what you are truly capable of doing when allowing God to lead you.

Write It Down And Revisit Later – Most dreams are lost because they aren’t written down.  We sometimes consider those dreams no important because if they were we would have remembered them.  The truth is that sometimes are dreams need to mature and if we don’t write them down we will never have the opportunity to revisit them with a new perspective and a little more wisdom.

Speak It And Believe It – A lot of dreams die in vain.  We are too ashamed, nervous or embarrassed to share them and because they never see the light of day they wither and die.  Dreams that are spoken are given life, because your dreams aren’t always going to be accomplished by just you.  When someone hears your dream of a bigger building, more small group leaders, or life change they might see the solution.  The more speak a dream, the more we believe it and the more others will embrace it.

You make big dreams happen by offering them up to God, allowing failure, revisiting it and sharing.  But above all else include God because everything is possible with Him.  Again dreaming is how we help hurting kids, it’s how we commission youth into the world and it’s how we build His kingdom.

What else should we do in order to dream big?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more about his blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

If you started to wonder this week … yes, God is still at your youth group.

God’s Spirit isn’t done quite yet in your church and in your life — even if it feels like it sometimes. I’m just about to cross 2,000 youth services I’ve played some part in — and I’m so grateful to know that God is working even when……

  • ProPresenter crashes in the middle of your message and at the worst possible moment
  • Your worship lyrics are riddled with misspeellings (<– I left that one in for you)
  • That funny game left a permanent stain in the old sanctuary carpet
  • You thought for sure the movie clip didn’t have THAT word in it
  • You were outnumbered at an event when your volunteers flaked out
  • There is a distinct odor in the church van that may never come out
  • Your small group was so out of control you feel the need to offer to repaint the host home’s family room
  • The tears from that student after your message … were because her boyfriend just broke up with her
  • The sermon you thought would be a homerun was a bunt at best

If it all goes wrong, if your talk tanks, if you feel that your youth ministry isn’t working … rest assured: It isn’t working. But God is.

God loves to show up when we’re down. He seems to specialize in being very present when He seems so absent. He’s there … He’s changing your students one botched program at a time. When your mission trip has an epic fail or your small group has a night (or several nights) of endless blunders … know that God is up to something big and your best attempts to stop him won’t work. He is working in spite of you, to see your students transformed.


I’ve FAILED as a youth pastor…

… if I put the ministry ahead of my relationship with God.

… if I put the ministry ahead of my relationship with my wife and family.

… if don’t invest in meaningful friendships outside of youth ministry and/or the church.

… if I don’t continually work to grow closer to my Creator.

… if I allow my identity to be found in my work.

… if I allow the numbers to discourage me OR make me feel good about myself.

… if I become jaded toward the church because of envy or pride.

… if I allow people’s view of me get in the way of God’s view of me.

… if I allow how the church/leadership values me to define my worth.

… if I am not a disciple AND a disciple maker.

… if I constantly look beyond student ministry toward “the next big thing.”

… if students feel like numbers and not individuals.

… if the work I’m doing “for” God doesn’t align with God’s desire for me or the ministry.

I’m sure there are others we need to be aware of as pastors/leaders/volunteers. Any others that come to mind?

Steve Ingold is the High School Director at Cornerstone Fellowship in the California Bay Area. Check him out on Twitter or read his blog.

Been learning quite a bit lately about youth ministry in the trenches here at Saddleback – here are 3 lessons I’ve known for a while but seem be be hitting me hard these days:

Never be OK with OK.
When you are coasting you are slowing down, just not admitting it. I’m not by any means encouraging you to give up margin or a day off — I guess I’m admitting coming off a season marked by a little apathy in my heart. Which means I was OK with OK. Which isn’t OK.

Fix it or kill it.
If a program is limping along you have to fix it or put it down. God has gifted you as a leader with discernment, so use it and take time to evaluate where you’re at. Be decisive. With a few adjustments you can probably turn it around, and if there’s no hope be a strong enough leader to admit failure.

If everything is working perfectly, it won’t be for long.
This is the harsh reality of youth ministry — it will never be fully dialed in. Just when you think you’ve got it all together, it comes crashing down. It seems like health comes in cycles and when it starts to turn downward you have to re-up the commitment to your church and gear up for another tour of duty.

Would love to know what you’re learning about youth ministry right now – leave them in the comments!