5 Things Youth Pastors Need to Stop by David Hansen
5 Things Youth Pastors Need to Start by Mark Knight
Disclaimer: What you are about to experience is a rant post. So if you are a youth pastor, I may, or may not, be talking directly to you.
The more time I spend in youth ministry, the more I get frustrated with the quarks of youth ministry. Below you will find five things that youth pastors need to stop.
1. Stop pushing entertainment over the gospel.
I get it. You want kids to show up, so you advertise and program around things that students would be interested in (i.e. dodgeball, all-nighters, give-aways), but what happened to the preeminence of Christ? That word “preeminent” means supreme, of utmost importance, marquee, chief, or most excellent. When you sit before the throne of God, what will matter more? How you lifted up His name or how great your all-nighters went? Which leads me to my second point…
2. Stop making it about the numbers.
I’ve heard the lines: “God cares about people, if people are numbers we’re counting, I should care about numbers.” Stop! I’ve been there. It’s hard not to associate growth and spiritual progression with numbers. But once again, is God more concerned with the breadth of your flock or the dedication and faithfulness of your flock?
3. Stop dressing like a teenager.
Time for comic relief. If you dress like your students and are double their age…something is wrong…very wrong. Be yourself. Stop trying to be “like” them and start leading them! Every youth conference I attend…the more disappointed I get in the fashion choices of youth pastors!
4. Stop leaving so quickly.
I once heard that the average stay for a youth pastor was 18 months. If that is actually true…shame on us! Very little is accomplished in 18 months. I am going on 3.5 years in my position and feel like I am just scratching the surface of what God wants to do through me in this community. Stick around.
5. Stop neglecting your family.
While investing your time and energy into a community is important, don’t sacrifice your family on the alter of “ministerial success.” It will not benefit you in the long run. Here is the reality: Every other ministry of the church has the summer “off”…except youth ministry. So when is your down season? When do you pull back the throttle to refresh, rejuvenate, refill the tank, and focus on the family you have seldomly seen throughout the summer? My suggestion: scale back in December.
David Hanson wrote a fantastic rant post, “5 Things Youth Pastors Need to Stop”. Hopefully, you have stopped doing those 5 things by now but if not, there is still time. And if you have stopped those things or are planning to stop, here are 5 things Youth Pastors need to start!
1. Start Communicating the GOSPEL Dynamically
Entertainment can’t be the KING of your youth ministry and yet sadly it is for many churches. The KING has a throne and the KING’s name is Jesus. He needs to be the MAIN focus; the biblical story, his story, the gospel needs to be presented at every gathering or you’ve missed an important opportunity.
However, if you are going to push the gospel you need to learn to communicate it in a way that is engaging and dynamic. Primarily, because the gospel IS engaging and dynamic! So when you bore it all up, create a slumber party in your sermon, and cause people to leave scratching their head saying, “What?!” – it’s time to adjust the way you present the most life-changing, exciting news of ALL-TIME! If you don’t know how or where to start on that, stayed tuned for a followup post to this point.
2. Start Making it About Fruitfulness
Numbers can’t be your focus. When numbers are the focus, you lose sight on what Jesus thought was important. Jesus wasn’t anti-crowd or anti-big groups, however, he did push crowds away if they didn’t seem to get it. (John 6:60-66) Through Jesus’ teachings we learn that his primary goal was not MORE butts in seats but those that are growing the right fruit.
If God has entrusted you with 10 teens, disciple them so they are bearing good fruit! And they will then begin to disciple others. If God has entrusted your ministry with a 1,000 teens then find ways to make sure they are bearing good fruit so they also begin to share it with others! Both are HUGE tasks that need lots of prayer and all of the Holy Spirit.
3. Start Being You
If slang, trendy clothes, and knowing the lyrics to a Taylor Swift song is you. BE YOU and the teens will love it even if they pretend to hate it. If wearing New Balance shoes, cargo shorts, and saying things like “Aw Shucks!” is you, then BE YOU.
Don’t try to be a teen, cause you aren’t one. Don’t try to be considered “cool” by them because that actually will stunt their spiritual growth. What they really need is a Youth Pastor that is confident in who God has them to be! That’s what they want to become! I’ve seen very effective Youth Pastors on both ends of the “cool” spectrum but the defining quality was they were themselves, they weren’t faking it. Just be you, and lead your teens.
4. Start Creating a Long-Term Plan
You simply can’t allow anymore throw-away nights. Off-nights? Maybe. But don’t throw-away anymore nights. Create a plan for your gatherings and a goal/vision behind the gatherings! Pray that God gives you vision for these students for the six years (academics pending) you get to invest in their lives.
5. Start Implementing Healthy Margins In Your Life
Margins are what allow you to do youth ministry or any ministry for more than a few years. Burnout is real and you can’t do everything. Maybe this is a reminder to say “No” to a few things and “Yes” to a few days off. The reality is, inside ministry there is always something else that you can do so it’s important to find healthy margins.