Life Outside the Church

 —  January 5, 2012 — 1 Comment

We eat, sleep and drink youth ministry.

Every once in a while I (Kurt) will have somebody say to me something like, “Youth ministry is my life…I don’t know what I’d do without it!” To which I want to reply something like, “Gosh…I am so sorry to hear that!”

It makes sense that so many of us feel like our entire lives revolve around our role as a youth worker. Think about it: We love what we do, we are convinced in its importance, teenagers are high maintenance, parents are high maintenance, and church elders are high maintenance! We are typically under a ton of pressure for numerical and spiritual growth in our ministry, and many of us are so insecure we have somehow managed to find much of our identity and sense of value in our roles as youth workers. If you recognize yourself in any of what I just wrote, don’t be too hard on yourself…you are in good company!

For these very reasons, it is vital that you determine to have some sort of a life outside the church! Not sure what we mean? Here are a few suggestions:

Make friends outside the Christian bubble
As much as we need, and love, the connections with fellow believers, be sure you aren’t living in a weird little Christian bubble. It’s shocking that despite all the “missional youth ministry” language that is so popular, so few youth workers truly live a missional life. The reality is the longer you are a follower of Jesus, the fewer and fewer non-believing friends you tend to have, and the less and less time you tend to spend with them. Your circle, instead of increasing and becoming more inclusive, has a natural tendency to decrease and become less inclusive.

Enjoy your hobby
Spend some time enjoying what you enjoy. In the hectic pace of ministry you can lose sight of just “checking out” and having fun. For me (Josh) it is all about Call of Duty or trying not to accidentally crash my Air Hog into the community pool. For me (Kurt) it is all about dirt bikes or reading a good book. Find something you enjoy and do it. We encourage every youth worker to take their day off seriously — don’t sit at home working on that talk that needs finishing. Relax, refresh and re-energize by doing the things you love to do!

Take some extended time off
Building a life outside the church isn’t an easy task — especially if you are in a pretty deep rut. We’ve learned that a single day here and there usually won’t break the habits so many of us find ourselves in. If you have the freedom to do so, consider taking some extended time away from the church. Take back-to-back vacation weeks, escape for a 48 hour silent retreat, Call an old friend from high school and schedule a fishing trip or scrap-booking weekend (that one was Josh’s idea).

Do you eat sleep and drink youth ministry, too? Take a break today!

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.

Enjoyed stumbling across this old blog post from Ron Merrell (he was our camp speaker this past summer) about the 4 P’s of Church Stickyness. Program, People, Placement and Promise. Here’s a clip of his thoughts on one of them – head there for the rest:

PEOPLE – Friendly. Welcoming. Diverse. Kind. Warm. Knowledgeable. Genuine. Sincere. Safe. Compassionate. Able to listen. Loving. Respectful. Gentle. Energetic. If these words described everyone in your church, you’d be the most magnetic place in town. And I’m not just thinking about your “greeters” or “staff.” I’m thinking about your congregation. As the Lord does His work in your people, you hope that it produces the qualities above and more! People. But what can you do to develop the second “P” of church, especially when there is a less-than-friendly vibe to your crowd?

This is a hard one, because as a staff person you can create several things to allow people to connect, get them integrated into relationships, feel welcomed initially, etc. But… there’s a difference between “having a church full of winsome, loving, genuine people who go out of their way to greet others” and creating a “greeting team.” The first is better, but WAY harder to create! Focus hard on this one. You can’t train, teach, emphasize, and value real, Christ-like community enough. People WILL tolerate a subpar Program if the People are amazing. But, over the long haul, People will NOT tolerate subpar relationships even if the Program rocks.

Is your church … your youth ministry … sticky?


Over the past several years we’ve begun to identify 4 key values that run throughout our entire student ministry. We want these four things to show up in our large group program on the weekend, in our small group program during the week and in all of our events, trips and even one-on-one interactions with students.

Want to know what they are? Glad you asked! Here are our 4, add yours in the comments section of this post, too!

Students have the uncanny ability to sniff out the least bit of inauthenticity. If you’re faking it … they know it. We want our large group time to be filled with failure stories and real-life transparency. We hope that our small groups are hitting on real topics that matter to students and that real-life is being shared in each group. We want students to know that they can “be who they are” without the need to put on a mask, put on a spiritual performance etc.

Our student ministry must be relationally strong. While programs are important, there is nothing better than one-on-one time with students. We want to share in relationships and be personally involved and invested in the life of the students God trusted to us. We value people over programs and do everything we can to constantly provide opportunities for relationships. Note: Relational ministry is easy at first, but as your ministry grows, it becomes tougher. Don’t take relational youth ministry for granted. It doesn’t always happen automatically!

One of the strongest advantages to youth ministry is the ability to relate the timeless truths of God to the teenage life. You’ve probably heard the old saying, “It’s a sin to bore teenagers with the gospel”. Making relevance a key value helps ensure you never commit that particular sin! Being relevant doesn’t mean you have to be super trendy, know the latest Lady Gaga song by heart, or that you keep up with the Kardashians, it simply means you create ministry experiences that are relevant to the life of a teenager. Our ministry must matter to students and hit them where they live their life.

It is our hope that students walk into our youth room and breath a sigh of relief! That their shoulders would drop as the tension is released from their bodies. That the worries and pressures teenage life drop off them, even if only for an hour or two. We want the urgency in our steps, the pace of our conversations and the environment we create to be relaxed and unhurried in every way.

Like we talked about yesterday, you need to know why your ministry exists…that’s why a purposes or vision statement is important. But you also need to know how you want your ministry to “feel”. That’s where values come in!

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.