Three Youth Ministry Facts by Miley, Justin, and the VMAs

vmsa logoMost of you missed the train wreck that was Miley Cyrus’ performance on the VMAs last night.  Be grateful.  The long and short of it:  she twerked and grinded on a foam finger and several others….in a nude colored bikini….through the entire song.

If you were able to stick it out through that unfortunate excuse for entertainment, you eventually saw Justin Timberlake (complete with a mini-reunion of *NSYNC) bring the house down with the redemption performance of the night.

What do we learn about youth ministry?  Here’s just a quick list–

1.  Edgy doesn’t mean quality.  If your ministry is simply about getting ‘ratings’, you need to re-evaluate.   You might get the ‘ratings’ you’re hoping for, but at what cost — and can that kind of ‘show’ sustain?

2.  People will talk (and tweet) more about the missteps and mistakes of youth ministers than their success stories.  Even Miley supporters agree that she was smutty, vulgar, and talent-less…and NO ONE was afraid to tweet, meme, and post about it.  Expect people to point out your failures and notice your short comings more easily than your steady, quality leadership.  And expect them to tell people about it when you screw up.

3.  Performance always out lives and outshines entertainment.   The social media love thrown JT’s way was supportive, respectful, and appreciative…although not as plentiful as the Miley-rants.  He had more airtime and more kudos and a more enjoyable show…and there’s a reason for that.  Timberlake has a talent and longevity in the business that garners respect and attention in the most positive ways.  And though people occasionally talk about Miley Cyrus, they buy Justin Timberlake’s albums.  If you want to build something in student ministry that lasts, give a quality performance (as in ‘job performance, work ethic, career longevity).  Entertainment only lasts so long…


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.

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