This is a long one

Alright it has been a difficult night. I am thinking about pulling out the Bible study I wrote a couple of years ago and putting it together to pitch to some publishers. It is a 12 week study on the Israelites and their saga from Abraham to the promise land. (I skip a big part of the wanderings). It is called “The Journey” and it is all about following God into a great adventure type of life. It was always my favorite lesson series, and I have been thinking about pulling it out and seeing if I could make it marketable for a while now.

So I go to find it on the computer and I have lost the first lesson. I have been trying all night to piece together little parts of it from the other lessons and from the blog. That means that I dug back into some old (2003) blog entries. There was some cool stuff in there. I really love this quote

Henri Houwen is quoted in Soul Shaper as saying "discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on." I think that is what I am looking to do for my students as well: To create a space where God can move.

But there was also some hard stuff to take too. There were reports of the high times in our attendance. I saw numbers like 48 and 51 and started thinking about where we are right now. I know that we aren’t all about numbers, but I can’t help feeling upset about the fact that we are running between 20 and 25 right now. That isn’t just a little off! That is a major difference. The part that hurts me is that it also means that 20 more students who need to know that God loves them don’t and I can’t help but feel a little responsible for that.

So I was thinking about some factors that may have something to do with where we are. I want to sort of lay these out there as sort of a confession and maybe see if you guys have any thoughts on making them better. (these are in no particular order, they are just how they came to me)

  • We had 2 families move—one of which was always instrumental in bringing in friends. That was an automatic 4 people and at least 2 or 3 more on average.

  • Bro. Wes died—we had an initial bump, but that changed things for a lot of teenagers

  • Since I was the only staff we went through some times when I didn’t really focus on our youth group

  • The whole “early on with the band” days were hard, it was hard to find worship

  • We had a great group of seniors graduate: Our seniors this year have been invaluable over the years, but most of them were very busy with life and work and other things. Most of them just weren’t week to week consistent and that hurt us

  • We have been without our own space for a while now and the 51 was on the night of our big move into the sanctuary, it is just hard not having space to call your own

  • Recently we are meeting both in the sanctuary and downstairs in the fellowship hall (after the singing we move downstairs) this is just too weird. When we were told to move back into the fellowship hall I said that we would lose 10 people from the move. This is one time that I hate that I was right.

  • Our youth have also been asked to leave their Sunday school space. So right now they don’t have any space at all. It subtly conveys a message about how important we are

  • I have had a real attitude problem lately about the whole space thing. Through all of my years at Calvary I have really always felt like this was a place where youth ministry was seen as very important, recently with all of the junk that has gone on I don’t feel that way as much anymore. I have tried to keep that attitude away from my students, but I don’t think it has worked

  • Students aren’t inviting their friends anymore. This is really a blend of two things, students who are friends mostly with church people (either from our church or somewhere else) and a whole group of people who aren’t interested in coming to Calvary who are the non-churched friends of most of my group. I feel like I have failed in not reaching out to this group.

  • We have a very divided youth group right now and that is about to kill me. I think I am going to start assigning seats so that we don’t get such a distinct line. It just looks terrible. We have 2 major groups and the 2 groups aren’t interacting. I need some help here. We have stuff in the summer that should be helping this, but I’m not sure how to make it better. Maybe at six flags I will force people to hang out together all day

  • We have a very closed group right now. New people aren’t being welcomed very well. Some of that is because of the strange format that we have it is difficult to get people assigned into groups and all of that stuff, but we have too many people sitting alone

These are all of the reasons why I can think that our group has dropped by 20 people. Add to these the fact that worship seems like we are just going through the motions and you have a pretty volatile mix.

I think I came up with all of those reason because I don’t want to stop and think about the fact that I may be the real problem. I always said that I would get out of youth ministry when I was no longer cool. Well, I’m 30 now and I think that day is fast approaching. The things that make me love doing this stuff are just getting farther and farther apart.

The sad thing is how much of my self-esteem is tied into the size of my youth group. I feel like a failure when there are 20 and like a success when there are 40 when both numbers are out of my hands and only God can really cause life change anyway. No matter what I do to draw a crowd that isn’t going to change the fact that it is God who meets us in worship. But knowing those things doesn’t change the way I feel about it. Maybe this is part of God trying to teach me to get over things like this. Maybe it
is just because I suck at being a youth pastor.

6 thoughts on “This is a long one

  • June 7, 2005 at 10:28 AM

    Hey, I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog over the last couple of months. I feel some of your pain. I’ve been there. A while ago we had a divided group, and were trying to figure out a way to get them to interact. Every night we do some sort of activity, object lesson, pre-lesson discussion or something that is a group activity. We’d explain what we were doing, and then hand out cards. Then it was everyone who had a 2 was a group, everyone who had a 3 was a group, etc. At first, there was some complaining, but it made them interact. It worked so well, that we’re still doing it! Secondly, I don’t think that anything brings people together like serving together. We are going on a missions trip this summer with a very diverse group. We told them from the get go, that this trip would make them a family. They would share experiences and memories and joys and pains and inside jokes that nobody else would get, nobody else would understand because they weren’t there. The issue isn’t “will you be a family?” when you get back. The issue has been “what kind of family will you be?” when we get back. It’s been amazing to watch these students take that and run with it. Praying for each other and encouraging each other. I’ll be praying for you as well.

  • June 7, 2005 at 5:02 PM

    I think you probably help people more than you know.

  • June 7, 2005 at 11:35 PM

    I have seen the way your youth interact with you. I have seen the amount of time and effort you put into your job and those students. I have heard what the youth say about you when you are not around. I have no idea about the hows and whys of your group these days, but I do know you do not suck as a youth pastor.

  • June 8, 2005 at 11:54 AM

    I happened upon your blog while looking for skits for my children’s ministry. I just wanted to offer words of encouragement to you in what seems like a difficult time. I recently left a church with 150 youth to finish seminary and began work at church of only about 20 youth. I have battled so many of the same things you are feeling, tying my self-esteem to the size of my “ministry”. I feel like we should have 20 more kids than we do, but the Lord has reminded me to just continue to pour out my life into the kids I have and invest in them. Hang in there. We all go through the “I suck as a youth pastor” stage…but God’s calling and sustaining presence is so much greater than our feelings…FINISH STRONG my friend

  • June 8, 2005 at 5:01 PM

    Well, I guess I’ll start with the same old thing that gets to every youth pastor, discouragement. Although, I am not a youth pastor I know what you’re going through because I’ve been trying to get the youth come together. Man, have I struggled!Not so long ago, I felt miserable like I didn’t want to continue helping the youth group come closer. That it was a lot easier to just sit, listen to the preaching & go home. But that day I realized through a preaching that it’s not in my strenght but in HIS.The more I tried the less positive results I had.

    So be faithful with the youth group that GOD has granted you because HE will reward you. I know someday you will look back at this and laugh at it.

    ‘Well done good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things…

    Matthew 25:23


  • October 31, 2005 at 11:53 AM

    **I totally relate to your situation. I actually came upon this site by googleing “I suck at being a youth pastor”. I am currently youth pastoring in a church plant (kind of a split-over some unbiblical things from the other church)… but at the former church, we had around 40-60 teens every week. Now numbers are anywhere from 12 on a great night, to just 2-3 for a bible study. We have absolutely no space, no anything… and I’ve been in this situation for about 2 years now. The one thing that has kept me from moving on is the 1 simple fact that I KNOW that God has called me here. From a human,pragmatic, measurable level, things look horrible. I get very discouraged very, very often.One scripture that has helped is Jer. 17:9- “the heart is more decietful that all else and is desparately sick; who can understand it?” – Be sure before you make any rash decisions (as I almost made a few times) that it is the Lord directing your steps, and not the human heart’s emotions. I have learned that God a lot of times is more interested in molding me by these circumstances, than he is about changing them. I just make sure I am giving myself to the ministry of the Word and Prayer, and am investing in the lives of the teens I have. ***Jesus changed the world with only 12 (with 1 that betray Him) and he spend most of His time with 3- Peter, James, and John. If that is the Lord’s model for ministry, I don’t know why I always think I need more.


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