Everyone is ramped up for school to be back in, rhythms to be brought back…and to implement all that we have planned.  We have new volunteers, new roles for veteran volunteers and we’ve cast out new vision.

All that makes it really easy to forget these things:

  1. The head of your ministry is Jesus. We can’t fall into having a Messiah complex where we think everything falls on us.  We have a role – and it’s important – but we are not the answer.  Jesus is.
  2. Your ministry is a part of something bigger – a church or campus ministry.  We must be aligned with the bigger picture and create windows of connection into that.
  3. People just want to feel like they belong.  Whatever age of people you are focused on, the bottom line is they are looking to belong.  And here’s the thing: belonging doesn’t come through programs or events or good sermon messages.  Belonging only comes through relationships.
  4. Ministry is and should be simple.  I have a friend and in many ways a mentor that often says, “only people count.”  He is right and we cannot forget that.  And, we must realize that “people counting” is different than us counting people.


In spite of the fact that I am athletically challenged, have never really known exactly what to cheer for as my children have played soccer, basketball, or baseball and don’t even really like or follow ANY sports of any kind, somehow all my son has ever wanted to do is play football.  We placated him with the “flag” version for several years,  however,  he  just wanted to play the “real” game.  This year as he enters 7th grade we gave in.  It has been an eyeopening experience for all of us.  It is teaching him discipline and responsibility in new and creative ways.  However, for the first time EVER sports will infringe on church and church activities (including youth group.)  It is interesting because in the world of us youth pastors this is what we always complain about.  How could parents/students choose sports (or band, debate, drama) over what’s important?

Here are some thoughts from the “other side:”

Unpacking  Faith

As far as he or we can figure out He is the ONLY Believer on His team. Daily in practice he is navigating listening to both coaches and players cuss and deciding if this is a good choice for him. This is only one example of ways he is forced to think about what living in the world and among the world, but not getting sucked into it really means. We have had discussions on ways he might talk about Christ with others. In short he can’t relegate his faith to certain nights of the week when he is “supposed” to be thinking about it.

Life Lessons

It has amazed me the solid life lessons football is teaching him.  He is learning the power of being truly needed on a team. This summer he has missed out on some “vacation” for the sake of the commitment he made. If he does not learn to follow directions and allow himself to be guided and “coached,” there are consequences.  As an incredibly regular and awkward JH kid he needs affirmation in addition to his parents.  It matters when Coach D tells him his strength is his greatest asset.  (Of course it didn’t hurt that he picked a kid up and pushed him back 30 yards in practice the other day.)  It isn’t “better” but he wasn’t learning  all of this in this way in youth group- a great one,  with an awesome youth pastor.  (No not me, silly, he goes to another one too.)


My son is crushed he is going to miss youth group on Thursdays for the sake of football.  He likes the structure of small groups and deep Bible study, his youth pastor and his friends. This year he is testing if “football is worth it” going forward. For awhile he may attend another youth group as well, because it meets on a night when there is no practice.  It made me wonder what is it that we “youth people” are really angry about when parents tell us, “I’m sorry it’s (blank) season, my kid won’t be coming.”  Is it we miss their child?  Is it we are worried about the student slipping away from the Lord?  OR  Are we mad that our “program” wasn’t more appealing?  Should we perhaps find ways to reach the sports kids at their interest point?

Parent’s Hate The Pull Too

Now I know there are some families out there who move heaven and earth to make sure sports take precedence in their kid’s lives.  HOWEVER,  I think more parents are like us.  They see their child enjoys something, and might even be good at it, and they want to let them be a part of it. Each of my children are allowed to pick ONE activity besides church stuff per season.  Still I have three kids in MS so if they all pick something different- that is three directions at best.  Sometimes we are just tired, we are trying really hard, and that is why we ask you to just make this “one exception for my kid” to come to “whatever.”


There is a difference between kids who are apathetic and flippant about church and youth programming and those who are not.  This is in spite of sports or other activities.  We don’t expect adults to ONLY be involved in church why do we put that pressure on our students? Unfortunately we live in a secular culture that sets schedules in spite of our “religious affiliations.” My son likes football, his Dad and I care his relationship with Jesus doesn’t suffer. We will get him to youth group, and attend early services on Sunday as we have to deal with afternoon games.  I am hoping that somehow we can find support in this decision to allow him to play. After all he really wants to be the next “Ray Lewis,” whatever that means.

How are you helping your “sports” families this Fall navigate church and “other?”

When I read Josh’s poll about ministry education it got me thinking about who I am and where I have come from. It got me thinking can I integrate my lessons learned from the past to make me a better student pastor?

Now I have a varied background when it comes to how I got to where I am now working with students from grade 8-young adults (18-25). I started volunteering in ministry as soon as I could, when I was in Jr high I helped out with Sunday school, as I progressed to high school I helped out with junior high students when I moved on to college I began to help out with high school students.

My education is also a bit of a mess if you looked at it on paper. I spent time in Bible school obtaining a Diploma in Christian Studies at which time I decided to take time off of school to work in full time camp ministry. I eventually returned to school to take a Wilderness Leadership certificate. My thinking was if I have more technical experience I would become a better outdoorsman. After returning to camp ministry for a brief period I believed God was calling me on to something different. I worked for 3 years in the death care industry, learning simple lessons from working with people grieving. After this I ended up going to school to become a Paramedic, and right after I finished my practicum, training and licensing as a Paramedic I landed in my current position. Now I am working full time with students but also working on my Masters in Christian studies with an emphasis on Biblical exposition.

Now I am sure if a lot of churches looked at this they would laugh and move along in the pile of resumes that came into them for a position, but where I have come from gives me a lot to stand on.

My Christian studies are used daily as I teach and preach, these skills are closely tied to my job. It is without question in my mind that some type of biblical training whether formal or informal greatly helps one in their ministry.

My time in camp ministry and taking wilderness leadership has given me the unique opportunity to take students into the outdoors and use nature to teach about God. I take students whitewater rafting, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, my goal is to even do a canoe trip or a multi-day wilderness excursion.

Working in the death care industry helped me understand working with grieving people. Now I am not a gifted counselor but students are going through a lot, and sometimes they are grieving. With having experience in this area I can feel comfortable talking to them. I might not know what they are going through but I can navigate through this area of trouble.

Training as a paramedic is useful. At All-nighters I have dealt with concussions, cuts, breaks, sprains and the list will continue to grow, with my understanding of first aid and medicine I am equipped to hand these injuries and it has given me a lot of credit with parents. I would encourage you if you don’t have any first aid, take a class it will increase your credibility with parents in your church.

It is hard to see for many how my journey has ended up where I am at along the road. But when I look at it, I see areas where I have unique strengths that help me in my ministry. I also see where God has taken me to help patch up weaknesses to make me a better servant.

Please take some time and share where you have been. I think it would be encouraging to hear the stories of how God has tailored each one of us to be the servant we are today.

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.comor Twitter: @CorbinKyle.