Today we hit on the foundation of good youth ministry: Love God, love students.

Love God

This is the first love—our hearts must be centered and aligned with his in order to do genuine and effective ministry. You can fake it, but frauds are always found out. A counterfeit youth pastor won’t make it long-term—and the key to being genuine is to be in a genuine, daily walk with The Father. We all endure seasons of spiritual dryness, but make sure it’s the rare interlude to sincere spiritual health. Remember, you’re discipling your students with your life; make sure it’s centered in the right place.

THIS WEEK: Take a little time to evaluate your spiritual health. Usually, you instinctively know where you currently stand, so don’t try to talk yourself out of your gut reaction. There is nothing more important in your life/office/to-do list than your walk with Jesus. Ask your supervisor for a spiritual retreat day. Call up a mentor and savor the wisdom in his or her words. Eat a meal alone. Talk to the person who is draining you, or finally have that conversation you’ve been dreading that’s been distracting you from truly loving God. Love Jesus more than you love youth ministry.

Love Students

For most, this comes pretty easy…it’s the reason you got into this gig—but at times students can be needy or draining. When spending time with students suddenly feels tough, fight through the temptation to focus on tasks and be constrained to your church office. Get out and be with students. We’ve both discovered through the years that the very best way to stay in love with students is to simply be around them!

THIS WEEK: Adjust your schedule to spend a little more time with students. Linger in a conversation with a student you would normally brush off. Look for opportunities to show up in a big way for a family in need.

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.

I was asked recently why/how I got into youth ministry. I told him clearly it was for the money!

After we had a good hearty laugh (sigh), I described how my great youth ministry experience as a student and in particular thinking my youth pastor was super cool got me thinking about getting into the ministry for myself. Besides giving him the Sunday school answer of “because God told me to” these were definitely catalysts the Lord used to make his calling me into ministry much more clear as I graduated high school.

This answer, however, spurred another question. He said, “You seem like a guy who students would think is cool, but you’re also a young guy. Will your coolness expire as you get older?”

I told him confidently that love, care, presence, and availability for students and a passion for God will always make me cool. It’s not about my clothes (lame), my knowledge of Justin Bieber or Kate Upton trivia (lacking), or my taste in movies and TV (vastly superior). It’s about pursuing God and being willing to engage students so they can do the same. I told him there were tons of youth pastors in their 40′s and 50′s and even more volunteers that age and older. It was a great opportunity to share the awesomeness of youth workers, especially the veterans!

I only hope I can be an effective youth worker 20 years from now and not take the sucker bait to accept the demotion to adult ministry… Well, unless God tells me to.

Matt Johnston is the High School Pastor at Journey of Faith in Manhattan Beach, CA. If you’re into it, you can check him out on twitter here and he blogs occasionally here. Also, be praying for him as he’s a Dodgers fan and baseball season is about to start. It will be a rough 6 months.