It's been almost a year since I stopped doing Youth Ministry. I've been leading or doing some kind of ministry since I was 17 and I have to say I've had a wonderful and restful break from it. On the other hand, it's also an amazing and challenging role to have. I thought maybe I should share some of what I've learnt or have discovered.
Thems were the days..
interesting to start with a section on retrospect, but I will anyway.
I've had lots of chats with people using the opening line 'why does it
always seem that the best days of youth groups have been and gone? (and
why can't we recreate this now as leaders?)' I've got a few answers,
some which I agree with, and others which I really don't. Here's some of
1. Things really WERE better then. Maybe
it's because we (not as in me and friends, as in 'we' youth workers who
have been part of many different ministries) weren't in charge then.
Maybe it's because we had leaders were respected. maybe the activities
really were just that good.
2. You could DO more stuff.
If you've known me for awhile, you'll know about many stories of
canoes, running around main streets at 11pm and playing Bigger or better
in the dark. Yes, youth leaders then seemed to take a LOT of risks. I
don't think they were particularly clever now I think about it. But it
3. Because you and you and you were there.
My alltime favourite days were running around being crazy with Jem and
Ali. I couldn't get those days back, and they never could continue. But
they WERE good.
Everyone has an agenda.
true. Everyone has some kind of agenda, but often it's a good one (or, a
well-intended one). I'd say you need a thick skin to stay in one place
for a long time, especially when your agenda clashes with whoever pays
you (or doesn't pay you in the case of volunteer roles).
best agendas to have: I want these kids to know Jesus, I want to show
kids what Jesus is like thru those in leadership, I want to encourage a
healthy spirirual life, I want to create a safe, fun and loving
The worst agendas to have: Numbers, passing on my own
causes and beliefs which are not core to the gospel teaching, meeting
potential partners, wanting to save the world, finding a 'cause' within a
youth and attempting to rescue them.
Of course what I've
said in the 'worst agenda' bit is a bit intense, and I have seen many
good things come thru people who may have bad ones. You need to take
each young person and each situation as they come. I just warn aganist
the danger of becoming a youth ministry leader in order to rescue youth
because we think we know what's best.
Jesus Comes First
JC didn't come first in this one! However, when we lay down our own
agendas and embrace that JC and His message comes first, we give power
At the end of the day you can have swishy
games and fancy devotions, but if your core vision isn't about Jesus,
what's the point of ministry?
around churches and other fellowship gathering places, you'll notice
that there really are some oddballs around. Now, within ministry
(school, church, whatever), you attract the minority as well as the
majority. Why though? Jesus drew massive crowds but people who were
considered 'the least' were pursued BY Him. When you embrace this idea
of serving the minority it all makes a lot of sense.
Always expect the unexpected
loved chaplaincy and the wonderful excuses it gave me to talk to
people, both from the Christian faith, and not, because without my role
as a 'Christian' I never would have had the opportunity to be part of
their lives. I was so completely overwhemled with the amount of love I
was given in return for my role.
"Remember that crazy leader? Whatever happened to them?"
of the downfalls of being a youthy and then being involved in youth
ministry is the amount of people you lose. (I was tempted to say 'to the
world', but I don't really agree with that statement.) Several people
who have ministered into my life, taught me things and spent serious
spiritual time with me have fallen away from the faith. That's really
sad. But it's also reality, so we ought to pray for them, and not have
those conversations in which is plain old gossip anyway.
It's not about what you do, it's about who you are (and usually who you are in your car)
I think of my 'glory days' at youth, I can't remember doing anything
terribly impressive (or, rather, the things that were impressive weren't
meant to happen but did anyway). I do remembering be a mad hugger,
pulling friends out during boring sermons (or videos) for prayer
sessions and staying up late at night talking about boys, God, life and
Of my leaders, what do I remember? I'd hold back
on saying 'unconditional love', but I do recall how deeply people cared
for me and loved me. I knew that no matter how I was treated at school I
had a whole heap of people (both youthies and leaders) who thought I
As a chaplain and a youth leader I have done
many stupid things. Then again, so have many leaders before me. However,
who you are in your car is what counts. Peri has this great theory that
picking up kids is awesome because they are stuck with you for extended
time and they are free to talk to you, and differently than what they
would if you were at church. If you have an open heart (and you usally
need an open mind too), who you are when you're tired, stressed, annoyed
or irrational shouldn't matter too much. We all have bad days.
We actually do care about numbers
was so completely blessed to work for Port because they were about
engaging kids with Jesus/church life and not about getting a whole heap
of kids who would show up one week and not the next. It is ally about
consistancy. When you're doing leadership by yourself (or with someone
else), reality is that you can really only 'pastor' a few of those kids.
numbers that count, really count, are those numbers that stay part of
your youth group, or that you can track. If someone chooses to leave
your flock for somewhere else, it's something you need to embrace and
accept. I did that as a youthy and look where it got me.
I've left numbers for last as it is really should be the least of your worries.
In a nutshell - it's really about Jesus + relationships.
What else? I'd like to say thank you to so many people, but lots of them aren't FB friends, etc. They all deserve a mention.
Mt Gambier Baptist Youth, especially to Mark, Jenni, Amanda, Ian and
Troy who always had something important and meaningful to share with us.
And to Steve who is now with Jesus. Words can not express what a
wonderful bloke you were. I miss you.
To those crazy youth
kids who made my Friday nights: Ali, Jem, Jess and Alarni. And everyone
else too (but you girls were the most important to me).
Eastside CRC, especial Mike, Nige and Ps Phil and Heather who spoke so
much good into my life. To Kara, Gianna and Shaun who plan good surprise
parties and also tip canoes. To my little youthies who are all grown up
To those people who stood by me with Maximum Impact, especially Tim who put up with so much from me!
the amazing students and staff at Scott Creek. Being there was always
the highlight of my week, and serving you was never work, it was a joy.
(Except for getting splinters!)
To those crazy Ichthus
Youthies who I love muchly even though I'm far away. I won't list you
all because I'm bound to forget someone important - so thanks guys for
all the pizza, driving madness, crosswords and mishaps including, but
not limited to Cassie falling off the spinning chairm running into the
fridge and breaking a lamp. And thank you as always to the amazing
Narelle, Stephen, Krystal, Miriam+Andrew and everyone else who loved and
believed in me.
To everyone who has given me love,
support and advice on chaplaincy and youth ministry - chappies from the
Hills, South East and Riverland in 05-07. Peri + Eric - miss you guys
muchly. Angela and everyone else I've forgotten and didn't intend to.