Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 8.41.25 AMWorking in ministry can be a challenging calling regardless of our circumstances. But it is even more difficult when we are working in an environment that is led by someone who has a different ministry philosophy than we do.  In youth ministry, this can often be the point of much friction. I’ve talked with countless youth ministers struggling with the philosophy of the leadership over them. They are not sure what to do. Most feel stuck. Many want to give up.

All ask for my advice in one degree or another.

So, what do you do if you differ in ministry philosophy with the leadership over you?

I will issue a few thoughts, but first let me say that I have been both a youth pastor (in 2 contexts) and I have planted a church of which I still pastor.  So, these thoughts aren’t favoring one side of the coin over the other, but instead my goal is to have them more focused on personal growth. These might seem a bit harsh at first, but here are some of my honest thoughts:

  1. You don’t need to be at the church you are at, so if you disagree with how the leadership leads or the direction of the church to the point where you can’t support it…you should leave. If you stay you will end up being divisive, regardless of how much you try to keep a unified face on.
  2. If you are staying at the church simply because you have no other source of income, I would recommend you seriously consider your “calling” to ministry.  This might be a point to elaborate on in another post, but I would be inclined to say that this is actually the reason you should resign.
  3. If you are staying because you “feel called to the kids in your ministry” then trust the LORD is in control and follow the lead of those over you. And, trust that He is going to teach you some things during your time at the church.
  4. If you think you should stay because you feel like God wants to use you as an agent of change, be careful. I’ve found some to be that agent of change, but it’s definitely the minority. In fact, in my experience, God keeps the youth pastor at the church so the youth pastor will change – usually toward more humility.

Chuck / @chuckbomar

Really enjoyed a post by Len Evans over on his blog Looking Out From My Little Place. It had some great insight on things that youth workers do that usually end up costing them their position. Here’s a couple of the standouts to me, head over there for all 10:

4. Ignoring conflicting ministry philosophies.
Your theological imperatives will drive what you do in ministry, but your ministry philosophy will drive how you do it. So it’s crucial that you and your church agree on the how to’s of ministry. You and your church might both value evangelism, but if you don’t agree on how to do evangelism you’re sailing into a major storm. Also, if your church functionally defines “youth worker” as “events coordinator” but you see yourself as a pastor, you’d better spiff up your résumé because you’ll need it sooner than you expect.

6. Forgetting that perception is reality.
Whatever people think of you, good or bad, is real to them. Make sure they know the truth about you and your ministry, and make sure the truth about you and your ministry is good. If one person decides to believe something insidious about you or your ministry, then shares that belief with others as a “prayer request” or outright slander, you’ve got a battle to fight. And it’s amazing how battles can quickly get out of hand (if your name is Trent Lott, you understand this intimately). You’ll eventually lose the war, so make sure that perception is the truth by confronting misperceptions and “making peace with your enemies” (Luke 14:31-32). When a perception problem springs up, head directly to your senior pastor’s office first so you can clear it up before it gets to him.

8. Marginalizing powerful parents.
When Powerful Parents Attack—it could be a show on Fox, but it’s not entertaining when it happens to you. Your Church magazine ran a series about forced exits a few years ago. They found that it takes only 3 to 4 percent of a congregation to spark a staff member’s firing. Know who the “power parents” in your church are, and do your best to make sure they’re on your side. Don’t succumb to pressure or let them bully you, but bend to their desires when it’s a neutral preference issue, not a core principle.

JG



Another new book! What? Hahahah … was excited to find out last week that Simply Youth Ministry was taking Kurt Johnston and I’s Today newsletters and making them into a new book! You can now get Youth Ministry Life on Simply Youth Ministry’s website you can download it as an eBook or get a physical copy shipped to your door. Yeah!

The most solid youth workers are the ones eager to learn, hungry for wisdom, excited to discover new truths and rediscover old ones. With that in mind, we’ve handpicked some of the best, deepest, richest content from our Simply Youth Ministry Today emails and created Youth Ministry Life. This book will help you navigate four major areas of ministry for every youth worker:

  • The PHILOSOPHY of youth ministry–why we do what we do and what difference it is making for God’s kingdom
  • The PEOPLE in youth ministry–those we are serving and those who are serving alongside us
  • The PRACTICE of youth ministry–programming for the most effective reach
  • The PERSONAL aspect of youth ministry–how and why we need to grow and strive for personal and spiritual health as the point people of our ministries

JG

Being in youth ministry for fifteen years now I have seen a lot of different youth group styles, philosophies, and I can tell you that haphazard is not a good style or philosophy. Having a strategy for your youth group needs to be a value, but not an idol. Strategy is important; it provides clear understanding of objectives and parameters around how they will be achieved.

It’s not the be all end all – but if done right, it will go a long way to creating a smoother process for yourself and your leaders. Here’s why:

Strategy breeds consistency: Having a standardized skeleton of how things are done is really disarming for students and leaders. When the program changes week in and week out and we stand at the front and encourage them to bring a friend, what are they bringing them to? When you have objectives and a somewhat strategic program, leaders know what to expect and students know what they are bringing their friends to. This simply requires that we commit to following through with whatever we decide will be our approach.

Strategy requires rationale: When we use a strategic approach, it requires that we have a reason for every element of the program and that if asked we can explain it to a parent or student. An example might be playing a secular song when the students are coming in as a means of disarming visitors who might be walking into a church for the first time. Why do we have worship? If didn’t have it, why not? Why do we play very few games? I am not sure its wise to have many elements of a youth night that have no reason or purpose.

Strategy is dynamic: It is vitally important that we be attentive to what God is doing in the midst of all of this. If students are encountering God in worship, it might be time to cut back the intro to increase the worship time. Maybe your group is not ready for a thirty-minute talk. Keep tabs on things and adjust as necessary.

Strategy is important … but not the most important thing. Doing good ministry, being attentive the needs of your students’ spiritual growth is key. Having a strategy is most helpful in taking the high level vision to an attainable and implementable set of actions for your leaders to work with.

JG



A while back I was in Costco Warehouse store [read: Sam's Club] for lunch and to stare at the display of magical flat screens that call my name when I walk in. Josh … you NEED a 75″ 3D cinema display…

After drooling over for the TVs for a while I like to head toward the food area, largely because of the incredible amounts of free samples they give out. They allow you to get a taste, see if you like it or the product speaks to you, and encourage you to buy it and then heat it up for dinner. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – either way it is a good experience and one that I began to think about over the next few days that translates to our youth ministry philosophy.

Youth Group is the sample
The purpose of our large group meetings is to expose students to the Gospel of Jesus and encourage them to see a step they could take in their spiritual life. The message is neither shallow nor deep – it is a sample of the whole counsel of God designed to push them forward i their relationship with Christ whether they are a devoted follower or even hearing about Jesus for the very first time.

Small Group is where pick up the package and inspect it
The large group is designed to give students a taste of what Jesus is all about. Small groups are the next step where students begin to experience Christian community and are surrounded by changed lives and an adult mentor. Small groups are the place for questions, doubts, fears and decisions.

Individual Life is taking it to the checkout and making it your own
Our desire that a student sampled who Jesus is in a safe, relevant way during our weekend services. We’ve challenged them to inspect their faith and examine their lives in community and study the scriptures together. Now we want them to own their faith, that they would grow on their own and express their faith well into adulthood with Jesus. They serve on mission trips, follow Christ’s example in baptism and have a walk with Jesus that is their own.

Costco wants you to sample, inspect and own. We want our students to expose, experience and express.

JG

There have been some great discussions on the future of youth ministry as it relates to the family and focusing on parents being the primary disciplers of their teenagers. And while the Deuteronomy 6 principles are clear I don’t think the answer is to throw out youth ministry as we know it as some have claimed.

I’ve been preparing for a discussion panel here at the D6 Conference in Dallas and had a few thoughts about a hybrid idea to bring families more central to the discipleship process while keeping the strengths of a healthy kids and student ministry. Here’s one way, would love to hear yours in the comments!

Kids Ministry
Dads and moms are the primary disciplers. They are actively engaged in their child’s spiritual growth. Children welcome their parents at this age and it feels natural and right. Parents are small group leaders; parents receive books, resources and training on raising their kids spiritually in the church and at home. Parents, pastors and young adults spiritually adopt and mentor kids in the church who don’t have the privilege to have parents of faith. There are worship services designed both together and separate from each other at this young age.

Junior High Ministry
At this point parents are beginning the earliest stage of helping their children grow spiritually without them being present all of the time. Plenty is still being caught and taught at home, but a transition is slowly starting to be made to help kids own their own faith, not just ride the coattails of their parents’ religion. Parents aren’t at everything, but are included in father/son and mother/daughter events. Other caring, trained, and screened adults come alongside the home to help raise Godly students. This is a natural time of resistance to the parent-child relationship, so while it is still integral to their faith development, we embrace the tension and give them outside voices and a little space to simply affirm what mom and dad are saying at home. These aren’t just any volunteers — they are partners in raising these young men and women in concert with parents.

High School Ministry
Parents are resourced, encouraged, engaged and communicated with extremely well. They are cautiously distant enough in the final formal stages of spiritual training of their child to let their faith become their own. Once a month family services are planned and designed with all ages in mind. There are tons of natural discussions in the home around standards, purity, boundaries, morality and integrity that offer many opportunities for discussion and practical application of Scriptures they’ve learned for years. The emphasis of the high school ministry is to help students grow in and on their own. They are also taught and resourced well, as well as given access to apologetics courses, discipleship events and seminars on topics to help prepare for adult life.

College Ministry , Adulthood
Parenting and pastoring is now done from a distance. They have a faith of their own, having been supported and nurtured from their earliest days. They own a personal faith that lasts a lifetime and is passed to the next generation as well.

What do you think? Just crazy enough it might work. Just an idea, won’t be offended if you don’t agree. I’m not even sure if I do, either!

JG