One of the most difficult obstacles I had when I started out in youth ministry was overcoming the feeling of being patronized by parents and adult volunteers.  Some of my feelings were due to a bruised ego because I thought I knew it all.  But, the rest of my feelings were legitimate because people did not see me as a professional.  They saw me as a youth minister; however, they didn’t see the professionalism in this industry.

What needed to change?  Simple, how I was presenting myself.  While there will always be people who will talk down to and treat those younger than them with inferiority, there are a few steps you can take to be seen as a professional.  They might be hard to embrace because of youth ministry’s push to be relational.  And relational can still be professional, in fact it should be.  In order to improve the ways you are treated, embrace these four steps:

  1. Dress Appropriately: This means two things.  First, it means dressing for your audiences.  Make sure how you are dressed makes your company feel comfortable.  How would a student feel if you were always wearing a shirt and tie?  How would parents feel if all they saw you in was shorts, ball cap and t-shirt?  Secondly, it means making sure what you wear is clean, ironed, and appropriate.  It’s not about having the latest fashions or dressing to impress.  When you dress well you show others that you are organized, ready and focused.
  2. Prepare For Meetings: Whether it’s a meeting for volunteers, parents or coworkers make sure you prepare and follow an agenda so that it’s worth their time.  If you are hosting the meeting start and end on time.  If you are attending a meeting make sure you are not late.  Lastly, be sure your materials are in order and that your not constantly checking your phone.
  3. Communicate Professionally:  Once you are out of college it’s time to put the fancy fonts, funky email address and clever voicemail greetings away.  Make your emails clear and scannable.  Respond to your voicemails promptly.  Have someone edit your letters.  And if giving a message or speech practice, practice and practice.  When you can communicate clearly, people will respond well.
  4. Be Fiscally Responsible:  When you are responsible with your budget it shows church members that you care about their investment in God’s kingdom.  That means researching the resources you purchase and knowing when to make sacrifices.  If you take care of what has been given to you, you will be blessed.  People will trust you and God will reward your stewardship.


The push back for some is that youth ministry needs to have a “Come As You Are” type of attitude.  If you come off careless, disheveled and haphazard who is going to trust you with their teens?  A certain level of professionalism will improve the relationships you have with the people that invest in your ministry and make it happen.  Let them know that you can be trusted.

How else can we be more professional in youth ministry?  Do you think I’m being too harsh?


Doesn’t matter if my small group is 6 in the morning or 6 at night, when I’m leaving I’m feeling empowered and refreshed.  Doesn’t matter if a meeting is 6 in the morning or 6 at night, when I’m leaving I can feel drained and stressed.  When you think about it, small groups are a lot like a meeting in the sense that:

  • It’s A Group Of People 
  • There Is A Leader 
  • There Is A Subject Driving The Conversation

So, why is one resented and the other embraced?

The intention of going into a small group is to build one another up.  In a meeting while there are goals to accomplish, they can easily become battlefields that tear one another down.  While confrontation and tension can be healthy, if your meetings took a page out of the small group handbook, people could leave a little more refreshed than defeated.

To make your meeting like a small group, make sure you:

  • PRAY TOGETHER: You probably start a meeting out with prayer; however, do not rush through it.  Feel free to sit in the silence, to ask God to send down the Spirit through the conversations.  Ask God to open hearts and minds to new ideas.  Just hand it over to Him, let God lead your meetings.
  • SHARE LIFE TOGETHER:  Just as you use the scripture, questions and teaching to drive your groups conversation, develop an agenda that does the same.  When you put together the small group curriculum it’s important to consider the flow of questions and scripture.  It will create a mood and bring people to certain conclusions.  The topics on your meeting’s agenda will do the same.  There will be times when you will have to hold off on a topic because of the tension in the room.  There will be other times when another item will need more attention because of the weight it holds.  Don’t just throw the agenda together, pray over it and allow it to move the conversation.
  • CHALLENGE EACH OTHER:A healthy small group not only has time for information and discussion; but, time for application and challenge.  In a meeting the application to the information you discussed is called an action step.  When you leave a small group you should feel commissioned to resolve and test the conversation you shared.  In a meeting it’s pointless to just discuss items and not walk away with a plan.
  • PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER: Whether the conversation is positive or negative you’ve just endured spiritual battle in your small group.  Before you head off in the world it’s important for a small group to pray for one another.  In a meeting the action steps that have been delegated are going to face adversity and obstacles.  If you can pray for the people in your meeting, then you are giving them the comfort that they are not facing their responsibilities alone.

Granted not all meetings are as thorough as a small group.  Sometimes you just need to check-in and move out.  Next time you are planning that big meeting and preparing the agenda, take the time to discern the emotional and spiritual journey it will take the group on.  If you approach that meeting like a small group, you’ll help your team leave empowered to take on the obstacles outside the organization instead of defeated to take on the obstacles within the team.

How do you ensure people leave meetings feeling motivated?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)


From time to time I post a question that comes into the blog for YOU to answer. What advice would you give this youth pastor who is asking about teaching/discipling checkpoints in their youth ministry. Weigh in!

We have a great group of leaders, but my biggest frustration is trying to come up with ways to help grow them as leaders and move them forward in their leadership capacity.  I’ve tried several ways but just haven’t found a way that seems to “click” just right. If you wouldn’t mind sharing, what sorts of things do you guys do to help grow your leaders?  How often do you meet?  What do you talk about?  How do you grow as a team?  

What would you say? Weigh in!


‪#SometimesMinistryIs a really big high five.

#SometimesMinistryIs receiving panicked calls from mommas who need your help with their teens.

‪‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs laughing so hard that you are crying.

#SometimesMinistryIs calling a student out and helping them to see their own sin.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs just dropping by to see how someone is doing.

‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs filling up water balloons… and throwing them.

#SometimesMinistryIs knowing a student has made some really bad choices but always making sure they know that you and Christ love them.

#SometimesMinistryIs buying a teenager a milkshake.

‪‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs sitting by the bed of someone at a nursing home.

#SometimesMinistryIs dancing and singing kids’ songs really really loudly!

#SometimesMinistryIs taking a student out to lunch so they can talk with you about something serious.

#SometimesMinistryIs playing a game of ultimate frisbee so intense that you rip off a toenail.


Ministry is Professional.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs scrambling to find one more chaperone for summer camp.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs intense (and slightly boring) budget planning.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs encouraging someone to volunteer to do something you know they would be GREAT at.

#Sometimes MinistryIs staff meetings.

#SometimesMinistryIs stopping in your busy schedule to do the hard work of praying for students.

#SometimesMinistryIs insisting on a medical release form, even though it is inconvenient.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs a non-church civic club meeting, because you’re investing in the community.

#SometimesMinistryIs playing phone tag FOREVER with someone to solve an important question.

‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs the best job in the world.

#SometimesMinistryIs not a job at all; it is instead the calling that your other job pays the bills to allow you to do.


Ministry includes Your Own Family.‪‪

#SometimesMinistryIs praying with your spouse.

#SometimesMinistryIs date night with your daughter, even if you have to miss a church thing.

#SometimesMinistryIs empowering your spouse to do their own ministry

#SometimesMinistryIs playing with your own children at home at night, and ignoring a phone call.


Ministry is Always God.

‪‪#SometimesMinistryIs sitting at a table with a brother pouring over the Word planning to present it in a new and exciting way.

#SometimesMinistryIs watching a student make bad decisions and knowing the best thing you can do about it is to pray.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs listening to a student explain the gospel back to you and praising God for his Christian parents’ training.

‪#SometimesMinistryIs listening to a student explain the gospel back to you, and realizing they do not yet understand what it is they are thinking about doing

‪#SometimesMinistryIs having to take a step back so that you don’t get in the way of what God is trying to do.

#SometimesMinistryIs just the purest ecstasy of full-on, eyes-closed, on-your-face worship of the One who saved you from yourself.



#ManyTimesMinistryIs just plain hard.

#AlwaysMinistryIs worth it.


(Special thanks to @ColvinEarl @savedman97 for their contributions.)

Aaron Tucker has served teenagers since he was one, and currently serves youth of all ages at First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, Mississippi. He is Oklahoma-born (Go Sooners!) and Mississippi-raised (Go Bulldogs!), and loves Christ and family and coffee and youth ministry in Small Town USA. He tweets @Rev_Tucker

Feeding The Monster

Geoff Stewart —  April 24, 2012 — 2 Comments

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet with a fellow youth pastor named Landry who works at a Church in downtown Vancouver. Above is a photo I took as we walked around talking about life and the complexities and challenges of being in ministry (Landry really suffers for the Kingdom as you can tell). While we walked he expressed some frustrations with the other parts of ministry that often take time away from serving Youth. He was frustrated with the amount of meetings, the amount of bureaucracy and other elements that someone who is new to Church ministry might not know are part of the gig and he was simply looking for a healthy perspective on how to embrace it.

A friend of mine once referred to this as “Feeding The Monster”. He expressed his begrudging acceptance of attending board meetings, all-staff lunches, health and safety committee get-togethers and taking tickets at the Children’s department nativity presentation. For my friend it was not that any of these events was bad or had no value, but for each of us, we recognize that an hour spent doing something other than focusing on our students and leaders is an hour that we might not get back. This past week, on top of leading our student ministry, I preached at our main services, taught at our local Christian school and then did two funerals. It was hectic and exhausting but as I reminded Landry, its part of the deal.

When I get frustrated about meetings and pastoral requirements I have to remind myself of this:

The Youth Group Exists To Serve The Church, not the other way around. If it were not for the loving and prayerful generosity of the rest of the Church, our youth group would look much different. We exist as a part of the body of the church, to serve, support, encourage and be a part of all other ministries.

I Am Not Building My Own Church. When I put my head down long enough and focus, I can easily get in the mindset that my ministry is the only one, and convince myself it is the most effective. What happens is that I lose sight of that we are building The Church and if our goal is to have students successfully assimilate into the body, I need to be working with other departments to collaboratively plan for this to .

We Are Called To Be Pastors To The Whole Church. It took me a while to grow in my comfort level to pastoring people 2-3 times my age but as I have grown in that, I have watch God grow me in my patience and love for the older people in our church. Sadly there are weeks like this week where pastoring them means leading a memorial for two of them. Funerals are never easy, but it’s a role that I have grown into as the Lord has shown me that my leadership is wider than just leading our High School students.

The responsibilities that each of us take on outside of our specific roles can be frustrating and can seem like we are simply feeding the Church monster. But in reality its fulfilling our role as a pastor, and reinforces that we are a part of a much bigger story that is unfolding each week at our churches. The key is that we need to see it as a blessing to be a part of and not a burden to endure.

GS – Twitter

One of the critical skills of a youth worker is time management. The wise old saying is true — if you don’t manage your time it will manage you. We’re actually not even sure if that is an old saying or not, but we heard it somewhere, and it makes sense! We’ve also heard youth workers (ourselves included) lament about their lack of time management skills. Because it’s an important skill, and because most of us aren’t very good at it, we thoughts we’d share a few basic tips to help you out:

Write stuff down
Ah, the power of technology! You can use Microsoft Outlook, iCal or Google to help you schedule your life. They sync your computer with your phone and can even be shared with a spouse or church secretary so everyone can be in the loop on what you’re up to. Not into technology? Pick up a Moleskin notebook or Day Planner and physically write things down if you would like. The point is time management starts when we start trying to remember everything and we start writing stuff down! As the great time managers, En Vogue, would say: “Free your mind, and the rest will follow.”

Manage your meetings
When someone asks for your time, it is helpful to get an idea of what the conversation is going to be about so you can be prepared for how long it will take. Don’t assume meetings need to be a full hour (like Outlook, etc all do by default). Instead, get in the habit of scheduling meetings that vary based on the specific need. Be generous with your time, it is a valuable gift to give someone else. At the same time, don’t be afraid keep meetings on track and timely.

Make meals matter
One of the best opportunities you have in your schedule is lunch! You have to eat — and so do the people you want to meet with or want to meet with you. If you’re looking to meet with a mentor or ask for time with your senior pastor or supervisor, get them to food and chances are it’ll help you get to them!

Be OK with a day that got away from you
Recently we have both had days that got away from us. At dinner that night, or even later in the evening, you ask yourself “what did I accomplish today?” and you can’t really put your finger on anything significant. These kind of days are part of youth ministry, and will never be completely eliminated. Managing your time and schedule is important, but make sure that you are listening to God’s leading and asking Him to show you who needs His love through you today.

What are other best practices to help manage your time? We’ll be back tomorrow with our favorite tools that may be helpful for you, 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.

Last week I wrote about starting an effective meeting, and continuing the theme of meetings I thought I would take on the idea of actually (gasp!) canceling a meeting. There are certainly times when a meeting should be canceled. Here’s a few of the good ones:


When the information you have to share is irrelevant/old
There are clear times you should cancel your meeting – like when the information you were planning on sharing is now out of date or irrelevant. Cancel quick and retool with the new information.

When the right people can’t be there
If the players can’t make the game, you don’t play. Sometimes the forfeit if the right call, even though it is sure to bum out you as a leader. The problem is you view the meeting as a single step in a long process, and have already made plans well down the line. So when the step can’t be taken, you see a whole future falling apart before your very eyes. Take heart, a canceled meeting is better than a meeting with half your players. Be sure to reschedule quickly or you won’t recover.

When something else trumps it
Sometimes, the day just isn’t right for an important meeting like the one you have planned. Ripples run through organizations and become waves that can come crashing down at just the wrong time. Yes, there are times to fight through the ups and downs of a work day, and other times to just let it go. Don’t wuss out when you should be strong, but be sensitive to waves in your professional culture.

When you could just email everything
Sometimes, you may plan a meeting thinking you would have something to say … but you don’t. As you look over your notes and agenda you realize that maybe you should just email the details to people. If you ever think that … cancel the meeting and email out the details. Time is ultra valuable to people, one less meeting, as long as you can still maintain effectiveness is the way to go.

If you’re burned out on meetings
Meetings on top of meetings are pointless. Less meetings are better – if you are keeping your volunteers out too many nights a week or feel your own ineffectiveness, perhaps you should consider meeting less often. Could we meet with our volunteers quarterly instead of monthly? Twice a year? Maybe leverage technology a little more with an MP3 via email or dropping some thoughts on YouTube? Just because you’ve always had that meeting doesn’t mean it still needs to live under your leadership.

Share another reason to cancel in the comments!