For most youth workers, few things in ministry are as dreaded as navigating conflict—especially when it comes in the form of an angry parent or frustrated volunteer and when it comes suddenly and unexpectedly.
You know the scenario: You’re hanging out in the youth room doing your youth pastor thing, and before you see it coming, he’s in your face. He’s on a mission. He’s got a few concerns, and he’s gonna share them with you right now. He has no desire to think about the timing. His agenda is the only one that matters. He’s a ticking time bomb, and time is running out.
It was another average weekday. Shortly after arriving home from work, I’m routinely rifling through the pile of papers pulled from my second-grader’s backpack. Amid the assortment of math worksheets, writing assignments and doodles, I see one yellow slip of paper.
One glance, and dread envelopes me.
Another ticket; another note from the teacher; another reminder of my son’s innate gravitational pull toward horsing around. (Sigh.)
When you look at the students in your life (let’s give them a name for the sake of convenience—how about Steve and Sally?), what do you see? What stands out to you?
Is it their height, their build or their features? Is it their personality, style or quirks?
The world sees their label—jock, diva, brain, groupie, gaming geek, ladies man or drama queen.
They are assessed a tag based on their past behaviors—liar, thief, pervert or addict; difficult, dangerous, dominating or delusional.
It begins with a lump in the throat, followed by a cold sweat and clammy palms, and it finishes with a sinking feeling. It’s the moment you realize you’ve “failed” in youth ministry.
Today I thought I would share some of my most cherished moments from the “How Not to Be a Youth Pastor” handbook.
1. The "unbroken arm." Imagine your student who is “that kid.” You know—the one who needs to push all of your buttons, and you are too proud to admit it? At camp I say four times, “Don’t stand on the trash can that is 5 feet in the air. We are playing basketball, and you could fall off.” Fourteen-year-old Malcolm ignores me. He falls, then grabs his arm, screaming, “It’s broken!” Me, in an award-winning moment: “No, it’s not. Go play basketball like you were asked.” Malcolm finally begs me to go to the nurse.