I have a problem. Okay, maybe problem is too strong of a word.

Issue. There we go, I have an issue. Although not a detrimental one, but an issue none the less.

I constantly capitalize random letters.

I know you’re thinking to yourself right now “Oh My Word! We need to get that guy an intervention” And while it is not a problem that causes any real issue, it is really really annoying.

The sad part is, I don’t even realize that I do it. I do realize that I intentionally capitalize some words for emphasis, such as God or Youth Worker, but more often than not I find myself capitalizing random words like Outside or Yourself. This may seem like a boring topic to talk about, but I promise it will all make sense in a little bit. In terms of grammar, we are taught that we capitalize proper nouns. David, California, and Chick-fil-a. We capitalize the terms that are not run of the mill terms. We capitalize terms that are big deals.

So in essence, when I capitalize the first letter of a word it is the same as saying “Hey look! This is important! This is a big deal”

I have to be careful that I don’t unintentionally capitalize words and phrases that were never intended to be, thus making them a bigger deal than they are. As a Youth Worker, I have to be careful that I don’t do the same thing in how I lead my local Student Ministry.

There are going to be issues and problems that arise in your Student Ministry regardless of how well or how poorly that it is run. That is a fact. Write it down or tuck it away in the back of your mind, because you WILL encounter issues as a Youth Worker. You will have to make tough decisions. You will have struggles. That is just an occupational hazard.

The question you need to as yourself as you lead your Student Ministry is simply this: What will I capitalize and what will I lower-case? Or better yet “What will I make a big deal out of and what will I let go?”

  • Do you capitalize “Numerical Growth” and minimize “Spiritual Growth”?
  • Do you capitalize “Fun” and minimize “Spirituality”?
  • Do you capitalize “What I don’t have” and minimize “What I do have”?
  • Do you capitalize “What others think” and minimize “What God thinks”?
  • Do you capitalize “Lack of budget” and minimize “God will provide”?
  • Do you capitalize “My Students aren’t getting it” and minimize “It’s sinking in”?

What are you making a bigger deal out of than you should? What are you capitalizing that God is wanting to be lowercase and what are you making lowercase that He wants you to capitalize? I had this teacher in high school named Ms. Holt. I don’t remember much about her, but I do remember that she would always give me a hard time when I would accidentally capitalize words that shouldn’t be. Every time I turned in a paper, I would usually get it back with some red marks from my teacher showing where I had capitalized words that I shouldn’t have. It became almost laughable at the shear volume of red marks that would be on my paper when I got it back after being graded.

I wonder sometimes if God looks at us with a red ink pen in hand. Not to correct us or make us feel like we’re doing wrong, but so that He can look at our lives and mark the places that we allow some things to be bigger deals than they actually are. Where we capitalize things that should be lower case. The truth of the matter is that when God looks at you as a Youth Worker and at what you and your local ministry can accomplish, He sees a capital letter.

You may capitalize Doubt, Fear, Insecurity and Ignorance, but He looks at those as lowercase letters compared to what He can accomplish through you. Your mission, your vision, and the ultimate destination for your Student Ministry is a capital letter in His eyes. That thing that you have been fighting and may still be struggling with that you have capitalized is just a lowercase letter in the eyes of God.

He is able to take those things that are big problems in your local setting and make them not such big problems anymore. Those big issues that you don’t see how they can be fixed He can make smaller. Those big circumstances that you don’t quite know how to navigate, He can lead you through. So what are you facing right now in your Student Ministry that you need Jesus to lowercase? Now, if you will excuse me, it’s time to check this post and see if I randomly capitalized any words again.

Noah Watt serves as the Student Pastor at Lone Star Church in Madisonville, KY. When not hanging out with his wife Bethany, Noah can be found hanging out with the coolest group of Students on the planet, reading or writing on his blog, “The Backstage Project”, at www.whatihavelearnedbackstage.wordpress.com

Thanks to Josh for letting me guest blog on MTDB. I had to have him stare at a picture of Obi-Wan Kenobi saying, “These are not the droids you are looking for” to convince him. And it worked.

This can be a difficult time of year in youth ministry, especially for us northerners. Discouragement runs rampant like gossip among cheerleaders. And we question whether we’re in the right place. Pizza delivery jobs look attractive – and definitely less stressful. The reality is that youth ministry has a devious way of pressing us to the point where we feel frayed and spent — and we just want someone to clean up the mess in aisle ‘us’.

I want to say one thing: Stay Encouraged. What you do in youth ministry is important. I get to see the results of your work – and it matters. So, hang in there.

In my work with leaders, I’ve noticed five practices that help cure the ministry blahs. They aren’t anything you probably haven’t considered before, but that doesn’t mean they’re ineffective. So, here’s my prescription to cure the ministry blahs. And, hey, I am a doctor.

1. Take your temperature: Watch your reactions – especially when things don’t go your way. Do you get angry? Fearful/insecure? Depressed? Lonely? These emotions are the canaries in the cave to let you know something’s wrong ahead. Anger is most common and, unfortunately, most of us are unaware of how we respond to others. Pay attention to how you react and learn why you feel that way. Those feelings could be telling you something.

2. Develop a non-digital hobby — this one may seem weird, but it’s one of my new recommendations to leaders. And it helps. Most healthy leaders I see have a hobby where they work with their hands or get outdoors. It can be fishing, sailing, gardening, biking, golf, tennis, woodworking, bird watching, weight lifting – or even dodgeball. I’ve seen dramatic changes among hard-driving pastors — changes that their staff and family appreciate. And, no, scrap-booking doesn’t count.

3. Get away on a non-digital retreat – as I blogged a few weeks ago, the social media world draws us in and demands more and more. It’s never done. Take a two-day retreat from all of your screens and from consumerism’s “discontentedness”. Create some margins in your life — get acquainted with a good book, your spouse, and the outdoors.

4. Renew your first love — Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day (and I hope you’ve done well to celebrate). I’ve discovered that I need to renew my love for Jesus — to remind myself of what he’s done in my life and of his call on my life. When I’m in the blah’s, I’ve often forgotten the “to serve” element of youth ministry (Mark 10:35-45) and made it about me. So, I’ll do whatever it takes to renew my relationship with Christ and quit being so self-focused.

5. Take intentional ministry steps. Pick five students you don’t know well to invest in for the remainder of the school year. It’s easy to figure out how to coast until the end of the school year and just manage. However, developing an intentional and relationally intensive ministry to five new teens will remind us of why we entered youth ministry in the first place — to personally make a difference in the life of youth. Some of my greatest youth ministry ‘successes’ with students came during these February/March efforts.

If you tried any of these (and they helped), I’d love to hear about it. You can let me know at terrylinhart.com. And stay encouraged. What you do in youth ministry matters!

Terry Linhart is co-editor of the forthcoming book, GLOBAL YOUTH MINISTRY, and author of the popular TALKSHEETS: LIFE OF CHRIST series.