Discovery ChannelOkay, first off – how did I not know the show “Amish Mafia” existed?

I ask because I stumbled onto it through a random web link. I later did some research and learned that the show  isn’t as accurate as it presents itself to be. A great article from Lancaster Online gives testimony to how the main personas and storylines of the show are more “between 1 and 10 percent truth.”

Still, after watching these clips, I found something “familiar” about it.

Maybe you can help me out here. I’m not Dutch, I don’t live in Pennsylvania and I’m a big fan of electricity.

So from this preview alone, what am I identifying with?

Are there any implications or comparisons for what does and doesn’t happen in youth group circles… and the role some youth workers take on?

For example, I feel there is this subculture within youth groups where some kids want to go wild but create the sense they’re staying true to their faith. Then within that subculture there’s another subculture who encourages it (i.e. the Amish mafia), and yet another subculture (i.e. parents/church legalists) who are quick to pounce.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

Our high school program was failing. A year before attendance and energy had been soaring through the roof and now the crickets barely made a sound. I had made some recent changes to the format because what we were doing felt too much like entertainment. Needless to say I received push back, people criticized and left. I felt like a failure.

My pastor and associate to the pastor talked to me about the situation and reassured me not to worry about my job. However, they suggested that I look at making some changes to the way that we did ministry. In the end we made some pretty bold moves including switching up the nights. Today the program is growing deeper and wider.

Anytime you face a problem in ministry you have two choices. You can LEAN IN or DENY IT. It doesn’t take a rocket science to know the only way you are going to solve your problems is by facing them. And to do that you need to:

  • Throw Everything On The Table: When you problem solve all suggestions and ideas need to be thrown onto the table. Sometimes an idea needs time to mature and evolve. If something doesn’t hit you right at first, take the time to sit back and ask, “What if?” After all ideas have been exhausted start whittling down the list.
  • Share The Burden: It’s easy to buy that lie, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” All that does is limit your capacity to solve a problem. Invite your leaders to brainstorm and offer their resources. If anything invite others to pray and share the burden.
  • Face The Failure: Solving a problem means taking a risk; however, the consequences are far less than if you do nothing. Granted you might fail; however, by taking an attempt you fail forward. You’ll learn from your mistakes, and will be able to tackle it from a new perspective.
  • Involve God Into The Process:Not sure why it’s easy to ignore God; however, if you don’t include Him into your problems you’ll find yourself exhausted and frustrated. When the solution isn’t in front of you, it’s important to take the time to fast, give or just sit quietly and listen. Allow God to work through you inorder to guide you towards the solution.

Whether it’s shaking things up or approaching a new season of ministry tackle your problems head on with a plan.  Ministry is relational and organic; therefore, it’s going to get messy. Do not fear it, lean into it, share the journey with others and trust God to lead you.

How do you approach problems? Would you add anything to the list?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)



When I was a kid we would watch reruns of Happy Days.  There really isn’t much that I remember about the show with the exception of the Fonz’s power to fix things with a simple nudge, pound or smack.  I’ve tried this method myself.  The dishwasher isn’t working; I kick it.  The car doesn’t sound right; I smack it on the hood.  If I don’t look good in the mirror, I punch it…that one hardly ever works.

In ministry I’m sure there is a whole slew of things that we wish we could just smack, punch and kick (I’m not talking about the teens) and have it start working.  If our systems and structures aren’t running smoothly then ministry just becomes a game of survival.  We need people to show up on time, equipment to run, meetings to end and communication to flow; but, if that’s not happening then neither is our ministry.  So, we look for a quick fix; but, quick isn’t what we always need.  Instead we need to take a simple; yet, thorough approach. And, that starts with:

The 10,000 Foot View – Sometimes we just need to take a step back and look at the whole picture.  When fire fighters approach a burning building, first thing they are told is to take a step back and analyze the entire situation.  Where is the source of the problem?  Where are the trouble areas?  What’s my best approach?  Answer those questions then proceed.

Partnering Up – The tendency is to figure a problem out on our own; however, with only one set of eyes we’re bound to miss something.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us:  Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. If you really want the best outcome to a situation make sure you partner up.

Setting A Timeline – While it’s great to take our time and really analyze a problem, if we wait too long we could discover new consequences from inactivity.  If I have a leaking roof and wait on it too long, it could create more damage if I don’t address it right away.  Just as we set a timeline for our goals, we should do the same with issues we need to address.  Don’t be afraid to lean in, because God is right there with you.

Reviewing And Revisiting – If you figure out a problem on the first go, that’s awesome; however, it is always wise to check twice.  If you are addressing a student’s behavior, follow up and see how they are doing.  If you are trying a new format, review it with your team after a few weeks.  If you’ve cut a program or event, get feedback from people you trust.

Yes, it would be easier to just smack the problem around and have it start working; however, it’s not that easy.  The steps to addressing a problem are simple; however, they take work.  The most important thing we can do is to rely on God to guide us through these situations and give us the persistence and wisdom we need to fix a situation properly.

Have I missed anything?  What steps would you add to address an issue or problem?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more about his blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

I’ve spent 12 years serving as a staff pastor at two different churches. Both experiences have been unique, positive, and challenging. I don’t plan on ever being a lead pastor, so I’ll spend my entire career serving on a staff rather than leading one.

If you are a staff pastor, no job is ever 100% secure. Things happen, economy has its ups and downs but there are four strategic things you can do to make yourself an indispensable staff pastor.

1. Find the most important objective your pastor wants to accomplish and put yourself in the middle of it.

–Volunteer to lead a task force to accomplish the objective.

–Be a good listener. For instance, if you hear frustration from him on why the church has a low retention rate for visitors, make note of it and take initiative to help craft a solution.

2. Make strategic connections for your pastor.

–Make sure these relationships are life-giving and not things that give him more work.

–Make sure they are strategic and contribute to accomplishing his present objectives or future dreams.

3. Bring more solutions than problems.

–When you see a problem, it’s tempting to let your pastor know right away about it. Instead, stop and brainstorm solutions. When you tell him the problem, offer several ideas to solve the problem. And when you offer your ideas, volunteer to be a part of the solutions.

4. Think team, not silo.

–Don’t always talk about your needs or your budget. Instead, offer to sacrifice for other team members or departments. Find ways you can show your ministry is not singular in focus but recognizes it’s part of the whole. For example, your youth leadership team can volunteer to do all the set-up for a children’s ministry event.

–Offer to evaluate other ministries. If you’re a respected youth pastor with good relationships with other staff members, volunteer to spend one Sunday a quarter going to the kids’ church and give tips on making it a better experience.

We don’t become indispensable by jockeying for power or claiming our rights, but by humbly and intentionally serving our pastor and our team.

Justin Lathrop is a youth worker and the founder of Help Staff Me. In January 2011 Help Staff Me and Vanderbloemen Search Group united in an effort to serve the church with all their staffing needs. Whether it is a Jr. High pastor or a Lead Pastor we are equipped to meet your staffing needs.