I am an average youth minister. I’m not the kind of guy who writes articles or books about how to do things. I’m not the kind of guy who comes up with new paradigms or new programs. I read books and magazines just like you do. I am constantly trying to find some way to connect students with God in real and meaningful ways. At the same time I have responsibilities as a pastor of my church, responsibilities at home and nearly every week someone in my church asks me if I have another job outside of the church.
I began writing a blog more to process my own thoughts more than anything else. As I started writing the comments that I got back from people amazed me. As I was honest with my struggles most of them would write and say “Thank you.” “It is just nice to know someone else struggles with these same things,” was a common response.
So I decided to confess and hope that there are others who are willing to confess like I am. I don’t have it all together. I don’t know any magic secret about youth ministry other than going to God for help. I don’t feel like SUPER YOUTH MINISTER, and I think there are people out there who feel like they are failures because they don’t feel that way either. So as an average youth minister here is my confession. Other than the first one these are in no real order other than how they came to me. Please understand that I don’t like most of these things about me and I am trying to fix them.
1) I don’t like all of my students.
There I said it. I know I shouldn’t. I know that this is evil and un-biblical, but I don’t like all of my students. There are some of them I don’t even think I love. This isn’t a permanent condition. There are only about 3 of them that I can’t seem to like some of the time. I have learned that with some supernatural help I can treat these guys with love and respect, but some of them are just annoying.
2) I’m sometimes afraid of parents.
I don’t know why, maybe it is because I don’t have kids of my own, [UPDATE: I now have 2 young boys and I think it does make things with parents a little easier] or maybe it is because they are sort of my boss, but sometimes I just don’t want to be around them. And when one of them calls me and says can we talk for a minute my first thought is always “RUN AWAY!”
Now this isn’t to say that I don’t use parents in my ministry. Parents are an invaluable part of what we do, I am just scared of them sometimes.
3) More times than I should I base my feelings of self-worth on which of my teenagers like me.
This one scares me more than any of the others. I will find myself feeling down because there were 3 youth not around, or because someone got upset about something innocent that I said. I know in my head that they are teenagers and they are going to be mad at you sometimes and they aren’t always going to act like they like you, but I still let it get to me sometimes.
4) I don’t want to know if Johnny is doing drugs or Patty is sleeping around.
I like being blissfully unaware! Alright I do want to help them, and knowing what they are struggling with can be a good thing, but I like believing that they are all angels. Partly because I like to treat them that way and partly because I want to believe my teaching is making a difference. Any time someone comes to me and says, “I need to talk to you about what Joe is doing.” I just want to run the other way. (In case you can’t tell I have a desire to run away quite often.)
5) If I get busy the first thing to get kicked out of my schedule is my quiet time.
I know that I need time alone with God, but for some reason it is easier to put that off than the other stuff that has to get done. Of course when I do, everything else doesn’t work right so you would think I would learn.
6) Most of the time I have the word picture, movie clip or object lesson before I have my text.
More times than I want to admit I have a great activity and then build the lesson around it. I will think of a good object lesson and then go and try to find scriptures that support it. I know, shoot me now.
7) Most of the time I am still working on Wednesday’s lesson on Wednesday.
It isn’t that I haven’t been working on it all week it is just that I haven’t finished it yet and I am still putting on the final touches on Wednesday. This means that I am normally rushed and trying to set up the computer in that all too important hang out time as students come trickling in. I hate it, but I can’t seem to break myself of this.
8 ) I don’t use my adult help nearly as much or as effectively as I should and this makes it hard for them to feel useful and like what they are doing matters.
This may be just a fault of mine, but I relegate my adult help to just that–help. They run errands and do little things, but I don’t give them enough control. I don’t give them enough freedom to be the leaders that they are.
9) The hardest thing for me to do in ministry is not make fun of students.
I don’t mean really cruel stuff, but little stuff that I would do among my own friends, but that devastate a teenager. We were doing a skit one time and a girl said “I’ve got more curves than a country road,” and just joking around I said, “You’re as straight as I-20.” I didn’t think anything of it, but she was crushed, and 3 years later kids at school where still calling her I-20. I still feel bad about saying it.
10) I really love what I do.
I love working with teenagers. They have so much energy, so much life, so much passion. I don’t see how anyone could not love just hanging around with then. I love the way that they look when they get it, the way that they act when they are following God. I love to be there when God speaks to their heart, when they discover the joy of serving Him. I love everything about working with teenagers. I’m not a super youth minister, but just an average one who is taking that love of teenagers and God’s love and trying to change the world one life at a time.