5 Critical Questions for Youth Pastors

Vibrating-steering-wheelSo I’ve realized in the past few years just how lackadaisical I’ve been in my student ministry.  It’s not that I lost my creative drive or passion for families…I just got comfortable ‘coasting’, so to speak.  I’d still invest in some ‘youth ministry awesomeness’ — but I wasn’t looking at my ministry or myself with a critical eye.

You may need to make a hard left to course correct…asking these questions could help yank the wheel.

1.  Why am I doing this?  Not this specific event, but church ministry in general!  If the answer is less than ‘Jesus called me to do it and because of that, I can do nothing else,’ consider a course correction.  It’s easy to get mired down in thoughts of family provision, lack of experience or training in another field, or just plain old ‘I don’t know what else I would do.’  None of those are reasons to stay in ministry…and they aren’t strong enough reasons to keep us there, either.

2.  Why am I doing this?  And by ‘this’, I mean, yes, that specific event – ministry – trip – etc.   If the answer is anywhere in the wheelhouse of “because we always do this”, “because I already have the route programmed on my gps”, “because we’d have revolt if we got rid of this”….it’s time to yank the wheel!  We MUST assess the reasons why we do what we do…otherwise this youth ministry becomes the newest generation of ‘we’ve never done it that way before.’

3.  Can I do this without Jesus?  If the answer is yes, then it’s not ministry…it’s programming.  I would jokingly tell my wife “I’ve been doing student ministry so long, I don’t even need Jesus anymore…I got this.”  Then one day, I realized it wasn’t as much of a joke as I thought it was.  I had mostly cut Jesus out of the process.  That’s not ministry.  If it’s not something ‘bigger than me’ to accomplish, then it’s not worth doing.

4.  Who is my Provider?  If our answer is the church, then we’re already in the weeds.  Make a hard U-turn!  We are not at our church for money, insurance, vacation time, or whatever other benefit we get that the guy down the street doesn’t get.  We’re at-will employees of Almighty God – and HE alone is our Jehovah Jireh…not the personnel committee, the church treasurer, the less-than-tithers or the lucrative givers.  Don’t make me rant about youth pastors who go or stay based primarily on money.  I was caught in that trap once upon a time…and it’s a miserable existence.

5.  Who is my First Love?  It really is the most important question of all.  Sometimes church work can suck the Jesus right out of us.  Be sure to intentionally invest in your personal walk with Jesus – independent of Bible study prep, sermon notes, or whatever other work-related reason drives you to Scripture.  Have you been embraced by Holiness today – have you sensed His presence – do you know His laughter – has He whispered anything to you recently?

Jesus is at the beginning and end of all we do as youth workers.  As you travel this road, make sure He’s also in the middle.

#firstworldproblems

My iPod loses its charge too fast.

That stupid special report interrupted my favorite show.

Traffic sucked and I had to wait in line at Wal-Mart for like 40 minutes.

Welcome to #firstworldproblems.

Recently, I was having a conversation with some youth ministry buddies about our woes in youth ministry.  Let’s compare and contrast.

Our elders have just reduced our insurance benefit.  #firstworldproblems

My friend Leah lives in a grass hut in Africa where she has no running water.  She poops in a hole in the ground, has eaten more than an occasional bug, and puts her life at risk every day in a politically volatile part of the country…not to mention mosquitoes and malaria.

We didn’t get our Christmas bonus this year.  #firstworldproblems

My friends Julian and Amy are chained to this country while their heart engages the people of China.  They wait patiently for God to release them while wondering why he hasn’t yet.  And their people await their arrival.

No one even mentioned Pastor Appreciation this year.  #firstworldproblems

I hear the voices of countless missionaries who served their entire lives with nary a thank you.  Martyrs in countries around the world sacrifice everything – their very lives – for the cause of the gospel.   Pastors preach the word under cover of night so they won’t be imprisoned.

I can’t get a job in youth ministry anywhere.  #firstworldproblems

I have good friends all over the country, Justin and others,  who work their regular jobs and STILL serve God by serving students.  They get nothing – no benefits, no bonuses, no paychecks, and very little, if any, appreciation.  They do it because they love Jesus and embrace the call.

Katie asked me this morning what I would do if I was never able to find a job in the church again.  I have no idea – but I do know this.  That’s a #firstworldproblem.

Don’t misunderstand.  My convo with my buddies has legitimacy   Churches should provide well for those they hire.  Appreciation should not be an anomaly   A workman is worth his or her wage.

I have just realized these past months that those concerns should not dominate me or my focus.  (And they have – at least at times throughout my ministry.)  But they’re ultimately #firstworldproblems and I want to be #otherworldfocused.

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