There is something totally entrancing about boxers and MMA fighters. I watch them do something that I don’t think that I am equipped to do…physically or mentally. Even more amazing than watching the actual fight is talking to them afterward. I have had the privilege of serving with a leader who is getting his MMA career back on track after a surgery. To hear him talk about fighting, you would be astonished. It isn’t a street fight for him. It is a chess match. ”If the other guy does this, I will do this, but if he turns and uses his left hand then I am going to change and do this with my upper body to block his attack.” I could sit and listen to him talk about it all day long.

Another thing that makes him successful is the team that he surrounds himself with. In the sport of fighting, there are timed rounds and a short break in between. During that time the fighter sits in his corner with his team who has a totally different view of what is going on. They bring another perspective, bandage him up and tell him to start doing things and stop doing others. They boost his confidence and tell him where he is performing well or poorly. In his last fight, he was gracious in attributing his quick win to the collaborative effort of all those who invested in him. It wasn’t just about his own amazing ability and fighting skill, he recognized that without those around him it would not have been a successful or victorious fight.

It is highly likely that I will never step into a ring to fight. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have a battle of our own in the world of ministry. What I know to be true is that in our success and failure, in our effort and our gifting we still have our own battle. Part of it is physical in nature. Some of it is spiritual. All of it is about God. In that, there will be times that we feel excited about our calling and ready to head out in the fight. Even when we are “winning” we will take on some amount of “battle damage”. Even the best fighters have a black eye or cauliflower ear from time to time.

Recently I had one of those days. I was taking hits and they were beginning to have their effect on me. I will neither confirm or deny that I may or may not have thrown a chair(s) in frustration. My prayer time after this was less holy and controlled and more screams and accusations. God and I worked through that, and I left that time confessing that I felt alone. I told Him I wasn’t sure how long I could hold on if I was doing this thing by myself. In the span of 24 hours God placed (or reminded me of) four different people in my life to sit and listen, encourage, and help me get perspective and get back out there…which was so necessary.

Being in a new city doing ministry I am still in the process of finding those people who are “in my corner”. Not everyone is going to be your best friend or know all about you. But what I found from all of my conversations is that these were people who had different roles in my life and different skill sets. They are able to speak into different parts of my life. The structure, the spirituality, the craft, and even to the nature of my own heart. What they had in common was some level of care and affection for me. They want me to “win,” if you will.

I would suspect these people don’t even fully know that they did what they did. They were just being themselves and being generous with who God made them to be.

People in your corner come in different forms. I have those I seek out and ask to join in my fight. I have those who are in my life, regardless of what I am doing. I have those who are fighting their own fight, but I can learn by watching them. And then those people that God has brought into my life, and I have no good reason as to why I deserve them.

The great thing is, those people can change roles, evolve, and deepen in relationship over time. So I try to not write anyone off. I have also found that as I begin to establish who support me, I have become better at being in other people’s corner as well. I wipe their sweat. I bandage them up. And then send them out into their own fight. It’s not always just about my fight, but helping others in their own battles.

Jeff Bachman is the High School Pastor at Rock Harbor Church just up the road in Irvine, CA. Feel free to leave comments or email him at and of course subscribe to his blog The Until Matters.

Buck the Stats

 —  May 3, 2012 — 1 Comment

Our profession has a problem. If you believe statistics (and 89 percent of you do), you’ll be searching for a job on in about 36 months. I’ve joked with my friend Doug Fields that his book Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry will always be a bestseller.

This painful turnover needs to stop. It won’t be easy because many youth workers end up wounded soon after the honeymoon ends. We begin anticipating attacks (not teamwork) and jeers (not cheers). But despite all the challenges, you can stay strong for the long haul with these “lifer” tips:

• Hold some stuff sacred. To increase your chances of lasting in ministry, it’s essential to set boundaries on your time and life. Do you take a day off every week? A break might be difficult during an occasional week-before-summer-camp, but if you’re cheating too often, you won’t survive. Do you rest and exercise regularly? How’s your family life? Having a long view of ministry means putting family first. There’s a connection between your faithfulness to your spouse and your faithfulness to God. You have a problem if you’re constantly looking at your phone instead of at your own children (56 percent of you have them).

• Let some things go. Too often, youth workers want to fight over things that don’t really matter. We take a stand when we should sit down, and we speak up when we probably should shut up. If you fight for everything 100 percent of the time, you’ll be too wounded to endure. Over time, you’ll begin to understand what’s truly worth fighting for. Pause today to reflect on some things you might be grasping too tightly.

• Surround yourself with the right people. To build and maintain a long-term ministry, you’ll need the right people in your life. You’ll need: 1) a ministry cheerleader, 2) a ministry mentor, and 3) someone who doesn’t know you work at a church. Who’s cheering you on? Who’s in the stands watching you and yelling encouragement? (Eighty-eight percent of us have someone yelling at us…but it isn’t encouragement.) Who’s the wise sage nudging you on with practical wisdom? Who do you hang out with who cares nothing about your career? These people are sustaining and life-giving, and they’ll make a huge difference.

Live out of these truths and you’ll have a much greater chance of becoming a youth ministry lifer—not a statistic.

Originally appeared in the March/April issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the magazine yet? Hit this link to subscribe and get in on the action today!

Here’s a little of what I’ve learned now 15 years (and 1 week) into this journey of youth ministry longevity:

Hold some stuff sacred
If you want to be in youth ministry 5 years from now, you have to set some boundaries on your time and life. Do you take a day off every week? The occasional week-before-summer-camp can get overlooked but if you’re cheating too often you won’t last. How’s your family life? Having a long view of youth ministry means putting your family first. If you’re constantly telling your kids to wait or looking at your phone when you should be looking in their eyes then you have a problem. Your spouse is sacred. There is a connection between your faithfulness to your spouse and your faithfulness to God. Get some exercise this week. Care deeply about these things, and it’ll truly increase your chances of lasting in youth ministry.

Let some stuff go
Too often youth workers want to fight over things that don’t matter. We take on stand when we should be sitting down. We speak up when we should probably shut up. Over time, you’ll begin to understand what is truly worth fighting for … if you fight for everything, you’ll be too wounded to stay in the fight. Maybe take some time today to reflect on some things you’re holding on too tightly.

Surround yourself with the right people
Want to stay in youth ministry for the rest of your life? It isn’t going to be easy but having the right people in your life will make a huge difference. Get these 3 people right now: 1) a ministry cheerleader, 2) a ministry mentor and 3) someone who doesn’t know you work at a church. Who is cheering you on? Who is in the stands watching you and yelling encouragement? Who is the wise sage in your life nudging in his or her practical wisdom? Who do you get to hang with who know and cares nothing about your career. These people will be life-giving in the long haul.

Follow these principles to become a youth ministry lifer!


Want to keep your youth pastor forever? Awesome! Here are three sure-fire ways to make sure they never leave your church:

Believe, promote and defend them
Your youth pastor is probably wondering right now if you believe in them. Be a cheerleader! I work in one of the best churches in the world with an incredible supervisior, elders and senior pastor and I still wonder about it all of the time. Tell them you believe in them! Promote them from the stage, behind the scenes and in your prayer life. Ask God to bless them and expand their ministry in your church. When the youth worker wins – so does the senior pastor. Not being threatened by your student ministries pastor is a HUGE boost to your long-term relationship. Defend them to parents. Have great communication so that when tension/problems come up (and they will because youth workers do risky and/or stupid stuff) be quick to forgive and forget and lead your people to do the same.

Let them lead
If you want your youth pastor to stay forever – let them lead the youth ministry. Better yet, give them space to try out some of their crazy ideas that are working with students to grow the whole ministry. Let them share their heart with the congregtion, give them room to succeed and room to fail. youth workers are attracted to risk. Senior pastors typically worry about failure. When a youth pastor peaks in their area of influence they’ll look around and see where they can expand before they look elsewhere. Giving your youth worker a steadily-increasing amount of leadership responsibilities will keep them challenged for a long time.

Pay them well
One of the biggest barries to career youth ministers and longevity in your ministry is value. Show your youth pastor who much he/she is valued by paying them well. When you put a salary cap in place you’ll miss out on the best players. When there’s a huge gap between youth pastors and “real” pastors it encourages them to look somewhere will they will be valued. Send them to conferences. Give them a modest expense account (Taco Bell is cheap). I promise if you pay them well you’ll keep them a long time.

Agree? Disagree? What would you add? Leave it in the comments and help senior pastors know how you work.


I (Josh) remember during one of my most painful seasons in ministry I got an email from a fellow youth pastor. The message was short and sweet — it consisted of 3 words:

“Hang in there.”

Today I’m heading into a painful meeting with a volunteer. He needs to be removed for us to move forward. I had a tough interaction with a parent who was upset about an illustration I used during our recent series on relationships. I had to call out someone for spreading gossip and hurting the unity of our church. It feels like every day this week I’ve been hit with something big or tasked with something extraordinarily difficult. What I need someone to say to me right now is, “Hang in there.”

Thankfully I’ve got some genuine cheerleaders on the sidelines of our ministry. They realize the long hours, tough conversations and painful weeks in ministry add up and, if unchecked, run you straight into burnout. I’ve heard a ton of encouraging words this week that even in a season like this — God isn’t quite done with me at this place. That even when things are tough, God is good and faithful. Remidners that He is changing lives even when the circumstances around our ministry are less than ideal.

So today, please hear this from me: Hang in there.

Fight the battles you need to fight today. Be strong where strength is needed and give in and be weak when it doesn’t really matter. Ask your mentor for prayer this week, grab coffee with a friend in your youth ministry network so you can vent and then gear up for another run.

No one said youth ministry was going to be easy. In fact, I think Jesus might have said our lives would be just the opposite.* But know that He is faithful and is building and shaping you and the people around you. I would imagine that you’re probably not done where He’s got you — that maybe you need to bloom where you’re planted, even if there is a little frost on the ground this morning.

So hang in there. And please remind me of this article the next time I’m about to quit, too.

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.

Working with volunteer staff can be the most rewarding, or most frustrating part of doing youth ministry. Your team will either take the reigns and run with the vision, loving and pastoring students or stall all forward momentum. I have been a part of youth ministry volunteer teams for more than a decade now and I have seen many different teams come together and if I were to put together an all-star team I would look for these four types of people.

The Cheerleader — We all need one of these people, when you announce an event or a retreat from the pulpit, they are the people in the crowd pumping people up about it. This person is all energy, and can rally the crowd in a way that adds validity to our claims that an event is going to be a “Can’t Miss”. They pump it up on Twitter, on Facebook and anywhere else people will listen. I have a few on my team, but could always use a few more

The Straight Shooter — My friend Jason takes someone with him every time he speaks at an event and not because he needs a friend with him, but to keep him honest and give him feedback on his preaching. We all need that person whose opinion and feedback is not taken personally but instead comes from a caring friendship and serves to improve our leadership. We all need someone to challenge us to be better, who can tell us where we missed the mark with our preaching and can offer safe and constructive feedback.

The MacGuyver- This is that person who can do anything with next to nothing, constantly looking for needs and trying to fill them. A servant heart, loyal caring nature, a take charge attitude and willing to take on any task that needs to be done and make it happen. We have a guy like this on our team that just loves to serve, has no assigned tasks, but seems to be everywhere at once, his name is Matt and he is a legend!

The Encourager- Josh posted a poll this week about this and from the results its plain to see that a lot of us have a person like this on the team but sadly many do not. This person is more valuable than they will ever know as their sincere words and feedback can really be all that keeps you from leaving after a youth night thinking, what the heck happened and what I am doing here? Last year I had a team member that would write me notes, or pull me aside to just encourage me, offer prayer and just be a great friend. There were nights that it was all the kept me from staring at the ceiling all night wondering if I could get my old business job back.

I know there are more types of people than just these four, but when I think of the people on my team I know that it would not function nearly as effectively or as organically without these types of people serving and leading our students and each other. Is there a type of person on your team that you could not imagine not having?

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.

Was thinking this week about the challenge of leading great people – and how we are not only leaders of students as youth workers – we’re the leader of leaders as well. Here are the 4 jobs I think we have as leaders of leaders. Add your thoughts in the comment!

Your team is doing a great job, so cheer them on! Many of us in leadership understand the vacuum of gratitude for what we do, largely from first-hand experience of loneliness at the top. Invisible leaders will soon be invisible altogether. Don’t let this be the case for your people!

Simply put, when you care for people, they’ll be better leaders. They will last longer and endure more under your leadership. The opposite is also true – if they aren’t cared for, when hard times come (and they will) they’ll disappear. Care for your people and they’ll care for your people.

Coaching is the gentle nudge of your leadership to get people back on track. Coaching is the side conversation that helps people see a better way or a different perspective. Coaching is helping people get better every day, rather just when they mess up. Being a leader of leaders means thinking about your people and coaching them every day.

Leaders are going to lead – and occasionally leaders in your care will need to be corrected. Correction goes beyond the earlier concept of coaching – this is the firm conversation or confrontation to make a change. Correction is part of your job description, too.

I’ll unpack each of these in an upcoming Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. What else do leaders of leaders have to do?


Job Position: Youth Ministry Cheerleader

Job Description: Encourage, build-up, affirm, applaud, bouy, comfort, strengthen, console, revitalize, energize, refresh, inspire and praise youth workers in your church.

Job Requirements: A heart and passion to encourage those who are working with the youth of the church. Spiritual gift of encouragement helpful but not required.

What would happen if this job description appeared in your church bulletin one week or in your local newspaper? What if such a position existed? What if there was someone whose only job was to affirm and build up youth workers?

Youth ministry is exhilarating, fun and unbelievable. It’s easy to get discouraged though since growth is often slower than you would like and you’re often in a role of planting or watering seeds without always getting to see them bear fruit. I know that for me, it’s often easy to lose sight of the forest while I’m focusing on the tree (planning a night, getting permission slips, cleaning up the broken lamp) that’s right in front of me.

I find myself wondering what would happen to my energy, passion and excitement if I had someone who was consistently reminding me what the forest looked like. This person would have no responsibilities to challenge, push, stretch, correct or mold. There are enough people that do that, are great at it and their presence is very much needed. I’m talking about someone who only encourages. How much different would your leadership team look like if there was someone who did nothing but affirm them? How much more effective would your ministry be if that person focused on energizing the leaders? Imagine the trickle down effect on your students if there was someone whose only job was to refresh leaders!

I recognize that encouraging leaders on my team starts with me and I like to think that I’ve gotten better at it over the years. Our team has put a special emphasis on spiritual gifts this year and using the gifts God has given you to serve. Encouragement is honestly one of the those gifts that I wish I had but struggle with sometimes. I’m a checklist driven, task master most of the time. I’m stunned by the possibilities of what my ministry would look like if I had someone who was skilled at encouragement and was passionate about using that gift with my leader team.

Anyone interested?

Buz is a special education teacher who passionately loves his ladies (wife and 2 daughters). They live in Spokane, Washington and you can check out his blog right here. His guest post was exactly what I’ve been feeling all week. Thanks, Buz!