I had a chance to get away with some of our youth ministry leadership team recently to process some of the common pitfalls that youth pastors face as they navigate ministry. My mind has hovered around three particular ones that I’ve personally witnessed in my recent experience in youth ministry:
1. Overspending or misuse of church funds
2. Inappropriate relationships
3. Compromising staff/church policies
Recently I had the privilege of speaking to over 400 Filipino kids' ministry pastors, coordinators and volunteers at our annual Victory National Kids Ministry Summit. The delegates came to Island Cove from 50 Philippine cities, plus Singapore, Cambodia and Dubai.
My topic was the “why” of kids' ministry. I told some stories, read some Bible verses and asked four questions. Here are the Bible verses and questions.
Question 1: Are we bringing kids to church or to Jesus? Getting kids to church is a good start, but it is only a start. The goal is to get them to Jesus. Let’s not be like the disciples in Mark 10:13 who completely missed the point: “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them” (NIV).
Even though school has not let out here in Maryland, we are already in summer mode. That doesn’t mean we shut things down or fill our days up with summer camps and events; we simply alter our schedule.
We tone down programming, keep things simple and maintain our pace. The goal in summer is to prepare for the fall while staying in touch with the teens.
Your summers are so important. How you approach them will determine your readiness for the fall. There is a tendency by many youth ministers to either overload their schedule or completely check out. If you are going to do youth ministry for the long haul, you need to treat the summer with the same focus and attention that you do every other season. If you take advantage of this, you’ll find yourself:
In 1990 my wife, Karen, and I began an endeavor that would forever change our lives. What began as a church plant became a radical reordering of our personal priorities and approach to ministry. We became painfully aware during our early days as church-planting pastors that we were far off course from God’s heart toward people of different ethnicity than us.
We slowly realized our ignorance of the daily issues that affected people of color. We also became aware that our day-to-day lives were void of any genuine friendships with non-whites. We, of course, “loved everybody.” The problem was you couldn’t tell it by our lifestyle or relationships.
I began to ask, “Why don’t our churches look like heaven?” Out of that question rose a powerful new quest in our lives.
I’ve got to admit—Mother’s Day is one of the most fear eliciting, stress inducing weekends of the year for me. It’s not so much about my ineptness in selecting a gift or honoring the mother of my house—Debbie—although, I’ve messed that up more than once.
No, the trepidation comes from the annual exercise of trying to prepare and deliver a message that navigates the veritable minefield of emotions that women are feeling on that day. You’ve got women who are: moms; want to be moms but haven’t been able to yet; mothers who’ve lost a child; women who’ve lost a mother recently; moms with wayward children; women who have lost their husbands; women who would LIKE to lose their husband; women who would like to find a husband; career moms; stay at home moms, etc. The list goes on.
I have told my son, who is a young pastor, “There are just two things you need to do: Love God and love people.” If you do these two things, you will not go too far astray.
Many younger pastors immediately try to assert their authority because they feel insecure. They try to change things overnight, do not respect the DNA of the church, and run over people. I did some of that as a younger pastor.
On one occasion an issue came up, and I was out of sorts. Fortunately, there was an older person on the board who would listen to me vent. He sat in my office about 45 minutes before one Sunday evening service while I vented. If the board did not go along with me, I was going directly to the membership. After all, more people had come to the church under my leadership than under the previous pastor. It was going to be the board or me. He did two things: He listened to me without rebuking me, and he kept confidence.