Lazy
If you, like me, have the privilege of actually getting paid a full-time salary to work with teenagers, you are in a rare category…and you are probably lazy, like me.

Full-timers: Because you work lots and lots of hours every week, you are probably really struggling with my accusation.
Part-timers and volunteers: Because you work lots and lots of hours every week ON TOP of your youth ministry role, you probably have a smug, “it’s about time…” look on your face right now.

Full-timers, indulge me for a minute.

– Do you regularly take 2 full days off each week? Volunteers and Part-timers usually don’t…they are doing youth ministry on their day off.

– Do you get paid for the week you are at Summer camp? Volunteers and Part-timers usually don’t…in fact they often have to use one of their hard-earned vacation weeks to attend camp.

– Did you take an extra day off the week following Camp? Volunteers and Part-timers probably didn’t. They were right back to grind.

– Do you ever roll into work a couple hours late the morning after a big event, or after mid-week because you “worked late”? Volunteers and Part-timers probably aren’t allowed to do that by their other boss.

– Do you ever hang out on facebook, update your fantasty football team or pin something on Pinterest on “church time?”. volunteers and Part-timers could get fired from their jobs for doing the same thing.

– Do you ever go to the dentist, go to your child’s football or soccer practice or take an extended lunch with your spouse on church time without reporting it to HR? Volunteers and Part-timers don’t have that luxury.

I could keep going. But I’ll spare the full-time youth worker community any more embarrassment! I’d be willing to bet that nobody in the full-time youth worker kingdom is “busier” than I am: I lead a team of 20 full-time staff and hundreds of volunteers that minister to thousands of teenagers each week. I serve on our executive team and my boss is Rick Warren. I am expected to give oversight and direction to the youth groups of six regional campuses and prepare for the launch of youth groups in TWELVE international campuses; each in a different country. I blog a little, create a few resources and speak here and there, too.

AND…I get paid for the week of summer camp, take an extra day off (or two) after each camp, roll into work a couple hours late after events that keep me out at night, I update my fantasy team from my office and go to the dentist and attend my son’s sporting events on company time. Benefits that my busy volunteer and part-time friends probably don’t enjoy.

Maybe I’m not “lazy”…and you probably aren’t, either. But I am fortunate, blessed, honored, privileged and overjoyed that God tapped me as one of the lucky ones. Typically I encourage youth workers to avoid the temptation to compare their lives to those around them. But today…and maybe every time you feel a little overwhelmed by your role…take a second to shift your focus from the junk of full-time youth work to the joys; from the pressures to the perks; from the busyness to the blessings.

When I focus on the junk, pressures and busyness of my ministry life I get overwhelmed and whiny.
When I focus on the joys, perks and blessings of my ministry life I want to work even harder at it.

Thoughts? Bring it on!

FiveI’ve learned that relating to students is more about what you do than who you are. I wrote a post a while ago called “The B’s to being a great youth leader” and it was about clearing up the misconceptions of what a youth leader has to be in order to relate to students. I believe that the misconceptions of who a youth leader has to be cheapens youth ministry in general. I believe the focus of a youth minister should be on what they do and not on who they are. Because I believe youth ministry is mostly about relationships, the fact that God created us to be in relationship with Him plays a huge part in that idea. Jesus was a walking relational powerhouse. In the three years He spent in ministry everything He did pointed to the fact that it’s all about relationships. A lot of what I do I’ve learned from Jesus’s time here on earth doing ministry. So here are 5 things I’ve learned from Jesus concerning viewing and relating to students.

  1. View students in light of their potential. – Jesus always looked passed people’s present circumstances and looked at who they had the potential to become.  Jesus looked pass the fact that Matthew was a tax collector and saw his potential. Jesus looked passed the lifestyle of the women at the well and saw her potential. We should do the same. Who they are today doesn’t have to be who they are tomorrow.
  2. Make time to talk. – Jesus was never too busy for a conversation. I like the fact that Jesus didn’t come to earth doing ministry from a fire breathing chariot because I can’t do that. Instead, He came doing ministry through relationships one conversation at a time. I’ve gotta make time to talk to students. Allow the programs and events to be the vessel to great life changing, life healing conversations.
  3. Focus on who they have the potential to be and not on who they use to be. – Jesus never dwelled on the past. Jesus paints a great picture of this with the disciples. He was always moving people to the life they had the potential to live. Students need someone speaking into their life words that moves them toward their potential. The more they dwell on the past, the more they will live in the past. Students need to know that there is a better life then the one that they are living, and that they can have this better life.
  4. Challenge their faith. – Jesus was always challenging the disciples to do what they thought was impossible. He was building their faith in Him. Challenging students to do things they think are impossible without God, increases their faith in God. Growth comes when we are stretched in our thinking and in our view of who God is.So stretch them by challenging them in their walk with God.
  5. Pray for them. – I love how Jesus never said “I’ll be praying for you”. He just prayed right there on the spot for those in need. This is something I’ve definitely tried to model. I’ve learned that when it comes to praying, students will totally follow your lead. So don’t wait, pray with them right there. I had a student who was having surgery. I randomly ran into her and her mother and some friends two days earlier. Once she told me about the surgery I asked if I could pray for her.  She said “of course” and so I pulled everyone together to pray. It almost brought her mom to tears that we were all praying for her daughter. It also felt good to just be bold and pray. We don’t have to confine God’s power to just move in the four walls of the church. He’s everywhere. So let’s minister like He’s everywhere.

Viewing students and relating to them in this light will change the way you view and relate to them. I only listed five. Can you think of more ways Jesus has taught us how to view and relate to students?

hope it helps

ac

 

 



 

You can’t be good at everything. You don’t need to be good at everything. And lots of stuff you are really good at or hoping to become good at don’t really matter too much at the end of the day.  So what if we narrowed it down to only THREE things youth workers do need to be good at; what might be the top three universal skills of a youth worker?  NOTE: I purposely left “spiritual” things such as prayer life, integrity etc. off the list because (whether true or not) I’m gonna assume we’ve got that stuff dialed in.

My List:

* The ability to be a fantastic active listener.  Just being a good listener isn’t enough, but being a fantastic active listener means you are listening, responding with guiding questions, probing here and there and picking up on themes that you might want to dig into deeper at another time.

* Patience. Patience makes almost everything better! Being patient with the annoying students, the struggling students, the cocky students, the “church” students, parents, elders, volunteers, yourself and the whole “process” of youth ministry and discipleship may be the most underrated but important skill/mindset you can have.

* A strong work ethic. This next statement won’t win me many fans, but here it goes: Lots of youth workers are lazy. To be specific, lots of full-time youth workers are lazy. We have somehow confused reading blogs, downloading sweet apps and checking the Instagrams of our students as hard work. Don’t get me wrong, times have changed and how we work is in a state of flux, but (and here’s the money tip…) many of the people we work for such as senior pastors, elders, parents etc. don’t yet “get it” and still expect us to be willing to do the nitty-gritty grunt work every now and again. When we complain that we haven’t had a day off in almost an entire week, or insist on taking an extra day off after the grueling scavenger hunt we led for our small group they have a hard time feeling our pain.  Here’s a tough question: If an elder followed you around for a week, would he feel compelled to recommend you for a raise or that you be replaced with a part-time college student?

What skills would be at the top of your list?

YOU STINK!

 —  August 9, 2013 — 4 Comments

 

I don’t like to admit it but there are a lot of ministry “things” at which I’m not very good….Correction; there are a lot of ministry things at which I just flat out STINK! And sadly, just because I stink at certain aspects of ministry doesn’t mean they somehow go away. Wouldn’t it be cool if God said, “Hey you, since you are horrible at X, I’ll just keep X away from you and the ministry you lead.” I don’t know about you, but if He did that for me there would be more stuff taken away from my ministry than left in it!

Because I stink at lots of ministry stuff, I’ve had to develop a three-pronged approach over the years:

1) Be okay being below average at some things.  I’ve simply had to “settle” on the reality that there are some things I’m never gonna be good at, and lower the expectations I put on myself to perform at a top level in those areas.

2) Selectively learn some new skills.  And while I’m learning to be okay with just being okay at some things, I’ve also picked a few key areas at which I stink that I think are worth learning to be good at. I can’t learn to be good at all the stuff at which I stink, but in my case I was SO BAD in a few key areas that I simply had to learn the skills necessary.

3) Surround myself with smarter, more talented people. I’m completely okay not being the smartest or most talented person in the room in most cases…especially when the topic or task involves an area at which I stink and I’m not willing to learn to get better at it. Giving these areas of ministry away to others frees me up and allows people to use their gifts to make our ministry better; a win-win!

Guess what? You stink, too!  In fact, you stink really bad at some stuff that is vital to the success of your youth ministry. And for some of you, it’s hard to admit.  So I’ll get the ball rolling in the hopes that some of you may be willing to share your “stink” in the comments section. Who knows, somebody who’s really good at it may be able to help you out.

MINISTRY STUFF AT WHICH KURT JOHNSTON STINKS (Note: This is just a partial list; actual list is much longer)

– Remembering names.

– Reading and sticking to a budget.

– Keeping track of registration forms or checks handed to me by a parent.

– Not using sarcasm to make a passive-aggresive point.  But if I may brag for just a moment…. I’m REALLY good at using sarcasm to make a passive-aggresive point.

– “Turning the corner spiritually” with students in one-on-one conversations.

– Returning emails, texts and phone calls in a timely manner.

Let’s get the comments going….share a tip for me….share something you stink at….share a tip for somebody else!

 



I came across this video and it seemed all too familiar.

(thanks to ChurchLeaders.com for the tip)

A few years ago I did a similar illustration of having someone slap me hard as a part of a service. In each of our gatherings, I invited up someone whom I considered a good friend (but who wasn’t in on what was about to happen). I then shared with everyone how hearing “Jesus died on a cross for you” has become so commonplace we no longer realize some of what it means.

Between our two services, I got slapped hard two different times, with each service having it happen at least twice. My cheek was throbbing by Sunday afternoon.

sermonillustrations

Years later, I’ve heard it was the difference in the faith of one of our (now) key leaders. In his words, “When you let Jon slap you, and then again, I felt the nails going into Jesus’ flesh for the first time in my life.”

Nothing like taking one for the team.

Sometimes we take this too far, though. In one church I was a youth pastor at I had it in mind to have the kids do an altar call while walking through fertilizer. My short-sighted thought at the time was, “It will help them realize all the crap Jesus will walk with them through.” Thankfully, someone much wiser than me interjected and I backed off the idea altogether.

What have been some illustrations like this you’ve seen “work” (or perhaps a few well-intended ideas you’ve watched go south)?

Share your thoughts. Let’s brainstorm and learn from each other.

Dear  Volunteer,

It bothers me when you tell me, “I’m not a real youth worker.” Are you kidding? You set up and tear down, prepare small group lessons,  and pick up kids and drop them off. You take “vacation” time so that you can trek with us to camp or on a missions trip. You give up Saturdays and evenings all the while telling me that you are doing this for the Lord. Your service humbles me causing me to make sure that I am in ministry for all the right reasons. You give from your own resources, have the ability to be excited when I am tired and organize me when I am frazzled. You are absolutely every bit a youth worker, and central to the success of all that happens here.

So when you hang around and think, “Am I REALLY vital to this situation?” The answer is unabashedly yes.

I know I ask a lot of you. You feel inadequate and ill equipped. Can I tell you a secret? So do I. ALL THE TIME!  No matter how long I am in this, I don’t know all the answers. Many times you know more than I do! You are not too young or too old. I don’t have things in “common” with every student either. Our students need those of us who are willing to come in and allow them to know what Jesus looks like. Since you are his reflection, they need you too. They need to hear the story only YOU can tell.

I am sorry for the times that I don’t tell you that you are not an “option,” but a “necessity.” Not only am I unable to do everything, I’m just not good at it. I am sorry I don’t say thank you every time you walk in. I can be desperate for help, and can so easily take advantage of your presence. Too often I complain about you without leading you well.

Please don’t give up on us yet. The students and I need you, even when we act like we don’t.  Please tell us when you don’t feel “wanted” and tell me when I am too busy to help you.  When you don’t “show up,” it throws everything off. Not only do I have to readjust the leadership role I have given you, but we miss you. The students who act like they “hate” you are the ones that long for you when you aren’t there.

I promise to guide you, to be better at communicating, to bring training, and to remind you of the vision that the Lord has cast for this ministry. Most of all, I promise to care for you and get to know you. I will stop and remember you are my greatest asset.

I have decided I do not like this “title” at all. It simply doesn’t fit. In a day and age where “service” is a requirement to graduate High School or a job incentive, it connotes a deposit,  while you make and investment.

Therefore from this point forward I will call you,

 “Teammates “

You are the reason a generation of students is being transformed in Christ. Never forget that.

Jesus loves you.  Student’s love you.  I love you.

In Christ-

Your Youth Pastor



“I promise to do my duty to God and my country, to something-something-something, and to obey the Girl Scout laws.” This is the first oath/vow I can remember from my childhood days. I was in first grade and had just started Brownies. Good times.

FOR ALL YOU AMAZING YOUTH MINISTRY VOLUNTEERS: I’m not saying you should take an oath (though signing a covenant is a good idea) but if one was created towards being the kind of volunteer your church’s youth ministry needs, here are some of the things I might put in the vows:

*I promise that I will never back out of a youth trip with less than 7 days to go. No, make that a month! (Either way, its really hard on the balance of the trip because finding adults to go was hard enough for the leadership much less at the last minute.)

*I promise that I will not make the dress code harder to enforce by being one of the people the youth director has to enforce it with. (Come on, this is too simple, people! You’re not working with the youth ministry to find your spouse or become a teenager again, so why not just be comfortable and not a clothing problem. Simple rule of thumb: if you’re wondering if its OK, don’t wear it.)

*I promise that I will not try to get the kids to like me by breaking the rules and guidelines. (Again, this is simple. It doesn’t work, really, and just makes you more of an example of what NOT to do rather than a role model. If lights out is at 11:00p, flip the switch at 11pm. Simple enough.)

*I promise that I will not “wing my way” through a youth lesson or small group. I will not study it on my smartphone at each traffic light while on the way to teach said lesson. (Jesus himself said, “Could you not watch with Me for one hour?” Find an hour out of the week’s 168 and prep, ok?)

*I promise not to be a freak-out adult providing the uthmin with more drama that the HS girls usually dodownload. (This is characterized by the vols that over-emphasize everything, get a little too high-maintenance about stuff, and spend more time with the youth director than they do with the youth. Let it go! I don’t know what it is, but just let it go! Unless it involves someone missing out on their eternal salvation, chill out.)

What would you add, ministry peeps?

Stephanie

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Not long ago in a conversation with my pastor he made this “passing” comment, “We are rarely contented by the vision the Lord has given us.  We listen to the “big names” in the Christian community and try to emulate them.  If we want our numbers to grow we believe we must BE them.  Then it fails and we wonder why.  The problem is it works for those pastors because it is their calling.  It doesn’t work for us because the Lord has a different plan for us.“

I have seen a trend in ministry,  all ministry,  we so desperately want to be “more”  we stop looking for the purpose God gave US and look to others.  The issue isn’t when we take wisdom and apply it,  the issue comes when we try to emulate who they are.  We play the “numbers” or the “comparison” game,  and feel empty.  If we don’t have “enough” students or aren’t as “noticed” as someone else,  we are doing it “wrong.”   There are times when we do have to track who is in the room,  however,  how do we keep a balance?

 

How do we stay true to our “special purpose?”

 

Are you an Evangelist or a Discipler? 

An evangelist’s heart breaks when there is one more student who hasn’t heard the Gospel of Christ.  A discipler’s heart breaks when one more student hasn’t gone deeper in their walk.  Evangelists care about discipleship and visa versa.  However, the approach is vastly different.  Know who you are.

 

Know What Being “You” Means.

What I would say is get to know your strengths and weaknesses. THEN read the books, listen to the sermons, and study what others are saying.  Learn to “chew on the meat and spit out the bones,” as they say.  What do you need to know & adapt?  What is a good idea, perhaps even a “God idea,” but NOT God’s idea for you?

 

Why are We In This?

When the Lord first called us to youth ministry all we cared about were students + Jesus = transformed lives.   Our creativity, our drive,  everything was wrapped in this truth.   It’s easy to get off track and focus more on “WHAT” we are doing than “WHO”   we are doing it for.  Get back to a zeal to simply see students grabbing hold of the GOOD NEWS and living it out.

 

I once heard Steven Furtick say,  “It’s easy to compare our daily ministry to someone else’s success reel.”    Track numbers when you have to.  Partner with other ministries that fill in the gaps of your weakness.   Most of all simply don’t forget Christ just wants you to do what he asked of YOU, no one else.