Sometimes you are going to be called on to rise to the occasion. To take a few swings in the Major League. To step up to the plate. To pinch hit. Maybe you are asked to speak in big church while the senior pastor is on vacation. Guest post on a highly-trafficked blog. Contribute to a new book or resource. Guest lecture at a local Bible college. Teach a workshop at a denominational gathering.

Something outside of your normal tasks and wheelhouse is handed to you. YOU! You know it is going to challenge you like nothing before, so you rise to the occasion. You furiously work harder, study more and deliver what is asked knowing there isn’t margin for failure and giving up isn’t an option. In the end, it wasn’t easy but you delivered. You totally came though – people loved your sermon, the discussions were incredible after your class, the article turned out great.

So rise to the occasion this week. Be the guy who comes through. When you are called on to do something above your pay grade this week, stand and deliver. But when you go back to normal life, be careful.

  • Be careful the applause didn’t go to your head
  • Be careful that you don’t ignore menial tasks
  • Be careful not to become “that guy”
  • Be careful not to undermine your senior pastor
  • Be careful not to short-change what you are actually paid/called to do

The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!‘ -Matthew 25:23

JG

 

For a long time in our shared calling we’ve made a big deal about being a “youth ministry lifer” – someone who does youth ministry until they’re super old. There certainly was good reason for that when the average stay of a youth worker in a church was less than a year and people recklessly used the position as a stepping stone to become a real pastor.

But here’s what I started thinking this morning: we need more youth workers in other parts of the church, too. We need more youth workers to become senior pastors. We need more leaders of businesses, organizations and non-profits to think like and care like youth workers. Why do we guilt people into staying when God is calling them on? Maybe it is a good thing that many don’t stay in youth ministry their whole life – I just want them to still think, serve and love like a youth pastor when they move on.

I’m not planning on going anywhere – so you’re hearing this from the heart of a youth ministry lifer: if you’re dropping out of youth ministry, always be a youth pastor, even if you’re title changes a little bit.

JG



Every few weeks, I hear about youth workers who need new jobs.

  • Sometimes they leave because they want to
  • Sometimes they’re asked to leave. We call this a forced resignation.
  • Other times, they’re outright fired

When I started to learn about how devastating the effects of youth worker turnover are for the local church, I started doing some research. I discovered several themes – the easiest and most common factors that cause good youth workers lose or leave their jobs. Make sure you’re not one of them

If you want to stay in youth ministry for the long haul, don’t do these five things:

1. Mismanage budgeted money. Depending on your theology, it’s either God’s money or other people’s money. Either way, it’s not your money. You’ve been given the responsibility to be a good steward of some of your church’s resources. You might not know what you’re doing yet, but you’ll need to figure it out soon. (This link contains all kinds of good information about managing your church’s money better.)

2. Fight with your Senior Pastor – especially publicly. One problem with working in the Church is that many of your friends will come from the congregation. We all like to vent about our bosses, but if you’re venting to a fellow pew-sitter, you’re in the wrong. If you’re in the business of creating division in the Church, you won’t be a staff member for very long.

3. Show up late for your own events. Parents have their own jobs with their own responsibilities. They know exactly what would happen to them if they slept through their alarm more than once. You can expect the same thing to happen to you.

4. Work way too hard and never, ever take a break. Your own soul care ought to be a top priority. When you’re worn down and hurting, you’ll be less effective as a youth worker. Less effective youth workers frequently become baristas. Besides that, a lack of soul care is the easiest way to make sure you run yourself out of youth ministry. The church doesn’t have to fire you if you get exhausted and quit.

5. Refuse to participate in the larger life of the congregation. You’ll appear much more dispensable if the rest of the congregation never sees you – or your youth group.

Find ways for you and your students to become a crucial part of everything the congregation does. Crucial people are much more difficult to fire.

Now it’s your chance to be the teacher. What is one of the money mistakes you’ve made? How did you fix it?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

Developing a spiritual growth plan for students sounds like a great idea, but its execution can be difficult. I’ve talked to some youth workers whose experience actually rivaled an execution. But don’t give up–it is possible. Part 1 in this series emphasized creating a healthy ministry environment parents can support, and part 2 offered strategies on how to overcome the challenges in doing so. This post features many of the additional questions that arise from the process:

How do I generate an interest in discipleship?
You don’t. Only God’s Spirit can truly cause people to desire to grow in their faith. You can, however, whet their appetite. Cast vision constantly for what a faith-filled life looks like. The ideal examples should come from your team and others in your church. Tell stories of what God is doing in your life, but be sure to include plenty of failure stories. You want to give students a picture of what to strive for, but we all know you’re not a super hero. So let someone else massage your ego and help students know how a Spirit-filled believer responds to failure. Everyone identifies with failure. You want students saying, “God can even use him? There’s hope for me after all!”

What do I do when my pastor doesn’t like my spiritual growth plan?
Be careful on this one, from two perspectives. First, are you sure your pastor doesn’t like it, or are you disappointed because he/she challenged a few areas? There’s a difference. Second, use this as an opportunity to discuss spiritual growth with your pastor. Is there already a plan in place for the church? How can you support that? If not, ask your pastor if you can run a pilot program with the students.

What do I do when parents ignore my efforts to disciple their kids?
Parents want the best for their kids. That’s why they yell and scream and argue with referees at games. (Also likely why they may have yelled and screamed at you.) Don’t assume their disinterest in your program means they don’t care. It’s possible they just don’t understand what you want from them or their student. They might also be intimidated. While you’d expect parents to be excited to see their kids grow spiritually, it might also threaten them, as that’s one area for which they have no control. The best response is dialogue with the family. Find out what they think of the spiritual growth plan and whether or not they have feedback.

What is spiritual maturity?
Ah, an excellent question! Always good to define terms; otherwise, we’re aiming at a moving target. I’m a big fan of a book called Personal Disciplemaking by Chris Adsit. He offers the following definition for a Christian disciple:

“A disciple is a person-in-process who is eager to learn and apply the truths that Jesus Christ teaches him, which will result in ever-deepening commitments to a Christ-like lifestyle.”

I like it. Short and sweet. You’ll find a variety of definitions but for me two key phrases are “person-in-process” and “eager to learn.” We’ll never be done. We’ll always be growing, or have areas in which we can grow. But take time to identify the one or two or nine key areas you want to develop in the lives of students.

I’m the only youth worker. How can I disciple all the students by myself?
You can’t. Don’t even try. Love and encourage all the students, but focus on 1 or 2. Talk to people in your church. They may not be ready to commitment to being part of the youth team, but they might agree to invest in the lives of one or two students. Pray for additional teammates, and don’t be afraid to invite people you work with or live near to be part of your team. It’s not easy being the only person, but you’ve got a vital ministry.

There are many more questions to be asked. Is there a youth worker network in your area? Take advantage of the opportunity to spend time with like-minded people. There are more questions about ministry than there are answers, so don’t be afraid to ask them. And there’s never a perfect answer, so learn all you can, pray like crazy, and do you best. Thank you for your investment in the lives of students and their families!

Gregg Farah is the Student Ministry Pastor at Shelter Rock Church on Long Island, NY. He’s excited to be back in student ministry after his 7-year journey as a church planter in New York City. Prior to his church planting days, Gregg served as youth pastor for 9 years in the suburbs of Seattle, WA and Orange County, CA. Be sure to visit his blog for much more, including a way to help finance his new line of books he is writing!



One of the biggest sources of tension in anyone’s job will be the relationship they have with their boss.  It doesn’t matter that your boss is your pastor, there are going to be things that he does that will frustrate, anger, disappoint and drive you crazy, after all they are only human.  But, the relationship you have with your pastor is one of the most important ones you can have as a youth minister, it not only dictates the tenure of your ministry, but the health of the overall church as well.

It would be nice to have some type of fool proof process where you are matched up with the perfect pastor; however, life happens and relationships will always face obstacles.  The tendency is to give up, blame them and move on; however, that’s not always the wisest thing to do.  In fact if you want a healthy relationship with your pastor it’s important to:

Serve Up – Submitting to authority is a humbling experience because it means letting go of your own thoughts and opinions.  However, if you want to influence your pastor you need to show him that you are willing to follow him, even if it means you disagree.  What you do is build trust, so that when a situation comes along where you strongly disagree you now have the clout to be heard.

Have Their Back – Biggest pet peeve of mine is when other ministers publicly bash their pastor.  Not saying you have to like everything that your pastor does; however, if you have a problem with something he does keep it private.  Yes, if it’s something immoral or illegal bring it to the proper authorities; however, when you sound off in public you not only break his trust, but the trust of others around you.  Any issues you have with him, you need to bring to him.  If you need accountability from others do it with a trusted group of individuals, to act as your sounding board.

Be Open – Your pastor doesn’t have to be your best friend, he doesn’t even have to be your mentor; however, if you feel like you have to keep the relationship superficial, you’ll only find yourself building resentment when he doesn’t understand your needs.  There are going to be times when you need to tell him you are frustrated, tired, burned out and disappointed.  You can’t expect your pastor to serve you or help you if he doesn’t know you.  Build a relationship and make sure the foundation is full of trust, open communication and respect.

Communicate About The Relationship – Don’t be afraid to discuss the status of your relationship.  It might seem awkward but make sure he knows that you value the trust and health of the relationship.  If talking candidly about it is difficult write it up in a review, call them check-in meetings but again stress how much you value healthy and open communication between the two of you.

There will be situations where the relationship between you and him just doesn’t work.  Maybe the tension is due to clashing personalities, a difference in philosophies or an unfortunate change in events.  If you have to leave your church do it as peaceful and respectful as possible.  You don’t want to be burning any bridges.  If you find yourself in this situation be sure to consult a veteran youth worker or someone you trust to guide you through this emotional process.  In the end it’s about trusting and respecting one another.  As your relationship grows stronger, so will the leadership of the church.

What tips or steps would you suggest taking to improve the relationship you have with your pastor?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

I contribute occasionally to the Slant33 blog where they ask 3 youth ministry voices to chime in on the same topic. This week’s topic is leading from the middle and Kara Powell, Chris Folmsbee and I all discuss it. Here’s a clip from my section, head there for all three takes:

Leading up helps those above see a missing perspective. Here’s why you need to lead from the middle: Your senior pastor isn’t seeing the full picture. He or she has blind spots in areas that your perspective lets you see perfectly. How dare you let them fail while predicting the net failure quietly from the silent middle? I am fully aware of the problem of senior leaders who don’t listen to their people. They exist in every church, and I’m guilty of it too. But that doesn’t mean you should stop leading from the middle.

A few parting thoughts about leading from the middle: It may be interpreted as insubordination at first. In fact, it probably will be. Some people will wish you would take a rowboat back to Youth Ministry Island and never come back. If you bring up problems, you better have some ideas that may work as solutions. Your church will be healthier when you lead up.

JG



As student minister’s one thing we have to always strive for is to be a perpetual student of our craft. We can never know too much about youth ministry. This is one thing that I defiantly do not have a problem with. No matter what I have done in my life I always threw myself into it full force. When I played drums in band in high school I studied, not only in school, but on my own. I listen to instructional by well known drummers at the time, I went to drum clinics, and dissected drums solos by popular drummers. When I joined the Army as a Military Police officer, I took baton instructor classes, correspondence courses, and unarmed self defense training. As youth ministers we must constantly be students of our own art. How do we do that? Here are some quick sources for training!

1: The Bible: I know I know, you’ve heard it a million times but that doesn’t make it any less true. The better your relationship with God the better off your ministry is.

2: Blogs: The cheapest form of training out there! Find a youth ministry mentor such as Josh Griffin at morethandodgeball.com, Doug Fields’ Blog, Stephanie Caro’s blog, or even my own at lifeintheymfishbowl.com. Want find great ideas to try? Read a blog. Want training on ideas to help grow your youth group? Read a Blog. Also there are non blog websites out there that are great. One I love is youthministry.com. Great articles and great ideas.

3: Certificates: Many colleges offer online youth minister training for a small price. Plus you get a handy certificate to hang up on the wall. Another place to check out is youthsphere.tv. This site offers a great certificate and great training under the giants of youth ministry. Use promo code MTDB for 10% off, too!

4: Group Magazine: Some of the best youth ministry ideas delivered to your door once every two months. Nuff said!

5: Other youth ministers: Your local youth minister’s network is a great source of training. You can pick up great life lessons while sitting down for a cup of coffee.

6: Youth Minister’s support networks: many denominations offer great youth minister support networks who can offer great advice and ideas.

7: Conferences: I’ve often heard conferences called the poor man’s seminary. That’s about the truth. With SYMC coming up you have the option of the large conference and it’s many options but also don’t over look the smaller local conferences that are out there, if money is an issue.

8: College: This option is not for everyone, but if you feel like God is calling you for a deeper commitment this is a great option. I’m currently enrolled online for a degree with a Student Ministry emphasis. There are many great colleges that offer Youth Ministry Masters degrees also many Seminaries that offer degrees with youth ministry minors.

9: Books: Some of the best training I’ve ever received was through two books, “Purpose Driven Youth Ministry” and “My First Two Years in Youth Ministry” both by Doug Fields. Books are the best way to glean ideas from well renowned youth ministers. Not just Doug but many giants of youth ministry have published books that are great training resources.

10: Last but not least: This one may strike you as odd…..your senior pastor. I know your thinking “He did not just say I could get training from the old man/woman” Yep I went there! Some of our senior pastors were youth ministers once. They can be great resources for ideas and wonderful sounding blocks. I was thinking about revamping our “Sunday School” class and asked our senior pastor what he thought. Low and behold we had the same idea and he had many small details that I hadn’t pondered.

If you look around there are many great resources out there for youth ministers to learn from. We really have no excuse to not stay on top of our game. You owe it to you church, your kids, and yourself to be the most well trained youth minister you can be.

Kevin Patterson is the youth pastor at Dawson Springs First Baptist Church in Dawson Spring, KY. Be sure to check out http://www.lifeintheymfishbowl.blogspot.com/ to regularly get in on his learnings, too!

Looking to fire your youth pastor? You’ve come to the right place! Did you Google “how to get rid of my youth pastor” and end up here? Awesome, here are three sure-fire ways to make sure they are out the door by the end of the week:

Don’t defend them under any circumstances
They are probably wrong – wait, they are always wrong. Be sure to believe wholeheartedly what that parent said to you instead of saying to them. Leaving them helpless will make sure that you won’t have to deal with their radical new ideas for helping church be more relevant (like updating the 1972 dress code which we hold on to as a symbol of Christian separation). Youth pastors can defend themselves, and they better do it well when you bring them before the holy parent tribunal to explain the damages to the church van last weekend.

Make sure they know they serve you, not God
You’re their boss – make sure they feel their place in this organization every minute of every day. Manage every bit of their time. Heck, ask them to turn in an unsustainable weekly report (in 15-minute increments) just to let them now you don’t trust them in the slightest. Hand them your philosophy of youth ministry from back in the 60s when you were a youth pastor and ask them to run youth group exactly like you did. Make sure the memories of your past successes as a youth worker constantly overshadown any passing success they might be feeling.

Pay them so little they leave on their own
Treat them like you would a servant. They’re cheap and easily replaceable. Who cares about them anyhow?

What am I missing? Leave a comment! And tomorrow I’ll post an article called How to Keep Your Youth Pastor Forever. You won’t want to miss it!

JG