The old saying goes: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. My mom always used to say that the grass is green over there because there was a septic tank underneath it.

But fewer words could be truer in Youth Ministry and church life for that matter. The grass always seems to be greener in someone else’s church. The advent of Facebook™ and Twitter™ you get to read about another youth worker’s work and how many students stood and received Christ for the first time, and how many dollars the group donated to a charity. It can feel like a non-stop highlight reel of comparison and discouragement compared to the situation you may be facing at the moment.

So I’m not surprised when people make comments about how great it would be to have my job, or to run a ministry like this. Truth be told, it’s a ministry just like yours, full of students who are hurting and broken and who make poor decisions regularly. When I spend time with students, it is often dealing with tough issues just like you. I usually Tweet about and post about the good, but truth be told, its tough, and the grass is not as green as you think. The same goes for the big youth group across town from you that has awesome music, great media and kids getting saved and baptized weekly. That is not the whole story.

Here is the honest truth; God has brought you to your church and your ministry for this moment. Don’t worry about what’s next or let your mind wander every day searching for. When your eyes and heart are on what others have, and what is happening down the road, you lose because you get discouraged, your students lose because you are distracted and say why bother and God loses because the person entrusted to lead Hid children is disheartened.

Here are two things to focus on:

Bloom where you’re planted
Just because you know that a ministry 3000 miles from you has great media, does not mean your students do. If you were to poll your students you will find that the thing that keeps them coming back is not an expensive youth room, free pizza, Xbox® Kinect™ or lasers – its relationships. Your students love coming to your group because they are known there, they matter there, and people care for them there, people pray for them there and people accept them there.

It may sometimes be a mess in your eyes, but you are called there, to share Jesus with your students, and it’s a blessing to be able to do that. Every church is messy. Accept the fact that pushy parents, apathetic teens and cranky facilities staff are a universal experience.

When you think about your group, think about the lives and stories that you have an opportunity to speak into and strive daily to show Jesus to each of them. We are blessed to work with a generation so hungry for significance and passionate about having a life that counts. They are just waiting for you to give them something / someone to live for.

Take a step forward today
Maybe you feel like you have nothing to add to the youth ministry landscape, when in fact you really do. There are thousands of youth pastors out there that are struggling, trying to figure out how to do ministry in a context just like yours. If you have been in youth ministry for more than two years, you have more to offer than you can imagine.

How can you share your experiences, good or bad so that other youth workers can benefit from it?

  • Start a blog
  • Write a guest post for someone else’s blog
  • Submit a magazine article (easier than you think)
  • Walk alongside a new Youth Worker in your area
  • Speak at your local training event

 

These are simple ways for you to share the lessons that God has taught you through being in the trenches. People need to know the pitfalls; they need to know how to deal with tough situations like the ones that you experience all the time.

Make the grass under your feet green.

JG

If you ever have a disagreement with someone and you want to win, just call them prideful. It’s flawless, because from that point on, anything they say is just their pride swelling up. As long as your the first person to play the pride card, you win, every time.

So say your having a disagreement over the vision of a ministry with someone, they aren’t seeing things the way you see them, just blame it on their pride. Case closed.

I hate that. Because unfortunately, more often than not, the person who plays that card is the one who’s pride is really in the way. Sure, there can be exceptions, but if you play that card, you better check yourself.

I got that card played on me a while back and it infuriated me. There was a real issue that needed to be fixed and is still yet to be fixed because of pride. I knew my intentions and motives going in, and they weren’t flowing from my pride.

But it did get me searching for ways I was being prideful, and unfortunately as a Human being, pride is always to be found.

I take pride in my education. I feel this is a good kind of pride, for the most part, because be it as it may, graduates from my school are sought after more than any other Christian college, and so being able to say I hold my degree from there gives me a bit of a swagger, which can be good or bad.

One of the negative ways it plays out, however, can definitely come out quite a bit. I am blessed to still keep in touch with my old class mates and see them in thriving ministries. It’s amazing to me that some of the guys I was in class with have been able to achieve some of the things they have done right out of college. It’s amazing to me how many went from classes and very little experience to big churches in big cities with established healthy ministries.

Unfortunately, I can often become envious of them. Being in a small town in a small church and seeing several of my good friends with less experience than I have graduate at the same time as me and get job offers from great, large churches, where as I’m having to build in an extremely small town with what sometimes feels as not the greatest support, it can cause me to be jealous.

But I feel like this is something every small town youth pastor deals with. There is this unfortunate myth that small town student ministry isn’t as good, isn’t as important, isn’t as effective. We may not every even outright say that, but if we looked at our ministries, its being yelled.

I could never do that, my church is too small. I could never make a an atmosphere in our youth services that beckons for visitors, I don’t have the resources. I could never plan as great of a camp as that church, I don’t have the time. Whatever it is that you feel you can’t do because of your context.

And though some of it may be true, and some of it may be unnecessary (like how I think it would be awesome to incorporate video’s into our pre-message every week, that’s not necessarily important, nor do I have the time to invest in that because there are other important things to get done.)

So though that may be true, its also false, because there are things we could do, we just aren’t. We have boughten into the myth that our ministry can’t be as great as first united church down the street, so we stop trying those things and get content with what we have.

This is a very dumbed down sentence to describe it, so don’t hold this against me, but the #1 thing that grows any ministry is its leadership. I say its dumbed down because you could come back and say ” Well what about relationship with Christ, or biblical dependency, etc. etc.”

A real leader in a ministry already has that, its a given. But whats missing from that is the leadership attributes such as Vision, Delegation, Mobilization. A real leader in youth ministry will not only be teaching his students the bible, but also the vision of them mobilized to make a difference in their school. A real leader will give their students a purpose that is more than showing up on Sunday or Wednesday nights.

If you want to see your ministry grow, your students need to grow. And if you want to see your students grow, then you need to grow. Continually.

Ben Read is the Youth Pastor of students and their families at West Gate Baptist Church in Trenton, IL, a town of about 2,700 people. He blogs at Small Town Student Ministry.