This month we’re introducing a new series here on the Simply Youth Ministry Today newsletter. It is called Top 3 and we’re kicking off this week with our Top 3 epic youth ministry fails. Thought you would like that one!

1) Every so often we play a video clip as part of the message and in one particularly tragic service we played the video clip a team member had made for me (Josh). Like an idiot I hadn’t previewed the clip from Tommy Boy and the very last sentence of the excerpt involved a joke about the size of the guys…sailboat. Needless to say, it would go on to be one of my most epic fails of all time. I ended the message with, “It sure has been great being your pastor.” Hahahah!

2) I (Kurt) was a 22-year-old rookie junior high pastor on my way to a youth group New Year’s Eve party with a carload of kids. I happened to have surf racks on my car and one of the 8th grade boys happened to be highly adventurous…which turned out to be a bad combination. I pulled over, strapped the student into my surf racks, and proceeded to drive 5 miles through town to the party. Luckily it was before the days of cell phones, Instagram, and every move being instantaneously captured. Other than a fairly harsh tongue lashing from the high school pastor (why do they always think they’re so much more spiritual?), there was no damage done.

3) To make a long story short: I (Kurt) was on staff at Saddleback for one month when I accidentally left a student in the stadium after an Arena Football League game. I counted…just not accurately.

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.

This is a story I plan on sharing often … because this was one of the most painful media moments we’ve ever had in our high school service. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has experienced something painful like this? This one feels historic.

Kurt suggested I use a clip from the movie Tommy Boy to illustrate kindness this weekend. His team had cut a funny little clip from the movie where the two main characters are on the lake in a sailboat on a perfectly calm day. Some kids yell at them from the shore and are unkind. Sounds great – I didn’t bother to watch the clip ahead of time – so one of our guys just grabbed it and dropped it into ProPresenter before the service so we were all set.

Little did we know someone had uploaded the full clip of the scene and not the tightly-edited one we were supposed to use for the weekend. Yup.

So I’m in the first 1/3rd of my talk, and set up the clip. The clip starts and the first line is Chris Farley talking about his grandpa always teasing him about “playing with his dingy.” I obviously cringed at that, but it gets worse. Way worse. As the clip goes on, one of the bullying kids yells insults from the shore – one of them being about the limp sail and comparing it to the main character’s … uh … yeah. So the last word of the clip we played was this one minus “sporting goods.” Lovely.

So the screen goes dark, and the lights come up on me and I’m like a deer stuck in the headlights. There was some nervous laughter, some gasps and a profuse apology. Wow, as I type this, I’m still stunned at how traumatizing that was. I found some of the scene online for you to enjoy and feel my pain:

I have never experienced a worse media moment in my entire youth ministry experience. There was only a couple ways the whole situation could be worse – a) it could have been at a parent’s meeting instead of youth group, or b) if our senior pastor had just walked in to watch the service. I’ve heard of some great goofs in HSM’s storied past – but this one has to make the cut as one of the worst.

Oh, one last comment – I asked our guys to find a picture that represented “friendship” for a heartfelt ending to the talk. They came up with this picture through a Google Images search, a typical method we use to toss media on the screen. So in addition to playing a video clip that had 2 sexual references we showed a picture of a girl that was abducted in Aruba in 2005 as a symbol of friendship.

What a weekend.

JG