superhero-300x212If you’re a youth pastor, you might have the same reputation I used to have. Awesome with teens but lacking in organizational skills. Great at communicating the gospel in an exciting way but weak in communication with other church staff. Known for the ability to get 100 kids across the border and back for a missions trip but unable to return an email. Sound familiar? Our reputations have earned us the best seat under the bus because that’s where people like to throw us. My favorite was when I got thrown under the bus for balloons that had floated to the gym ceiling. I had nothing to with those balloons, but because of my youth pastor reputation, under the bus I went without a chance in the world to defend myself. Balloons!

I’m not too proud to admit that I did a lot in the past to contribute to my own “youth pastor” reputation. But taking the blame for everything under the sun, being stereotyped as less than professional, and not being respected by co-workers was not the most encouraging way to approach ministry day in and day out. That’s why I went on a mission to ruin my youth pastor reputation. I didn’t earn my rep overnight, and I didn’t change it overnight, but I did commit to making ongoing positive changes. To really ruin my reputation I had to step out of victim mode and into servant mode. I needed to be more aware of how my role and ministry impacted my teammates. I also needed to gain new found trust from my ministry partners and supervisors.

Below are 5 reputation killers I discovered on my mission to ruin mine.

5 Big Reputation Killers

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Sometimes being a youth worker means reaching out to angry, confused, and disoriented students. It’s not easy. It requires risking the favor of parents and supervisors. It means making unpopular decisions. During the 2013 Simply Youth Ministry Conference, I spoke about my own experience reorienting the hardest students to God’s love.

Check it out! And don’t forget to register for SYMC 2014!

 

 

The majority of us agree: We all need to talk less and stop lecturing our teens. I try to keep my youth talks no longer than ten minutes. The truth is, while most of us agree we should talk less, the majority of us are still talking! I get it. I don’t want to stop talking either. I do believe a powerfully engaging message can open the minds and hearts of teens. Getting the opportunity to engage a captive audience on a weekly basis is a gift. But as Darren Sutton wrote in his article for Group magazine, youth ministry and preaching don’t mix.

Youth Pastors using teenagers to fulfill their preaching needs is merely a way of holding youth ministry hostage and demanding ransom from the church family.
-Darren Sutton

I agree with Darren. We don’t need to preach at kids, but we do need to take our calling to guide and direct students to a new level.

So if preaching and youth don’t mix, what does? Continue Reading…

What’s an Isopod Crustacean? Remember the little Roly Polies you rolled around in your palm as a kid? These Roly Polies crawled up our arms fascinating us with their millions of tiny legs. This morning as I was walking my dog, an Isopod caught my attention. I stopped to pick it up, and as it rolled around my hand I found myself flying back in time, a time when a tiny creature with millions of legs could fascinate me for hours. The adult me, has little time to stop for anything. It seems the business of the time we live in pushes fascination to the sideline.

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Every kid in the country can taste summer! It’s time to jump in the pool, sleep in, and hang out with friends for hours on end. But summer time also means transition is inevitable. Soon a new crew of middle schoolers will enter spastically and awkwardly into youth ministry. Uprising freshman will finally experience high school youth ministry. For most, it is an exciting time and welcome change, yet others students may get lost in transition.

Will they fit in? Will they know anybody? Will it be fun?

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Mother’s Day is just a few days away. I’m thinking about the relationship I am so blessed to have with my mother. Honoring her has never been a dilemma. But I’m also thinking about teens who approach this day with a strained relationship with their mothers. How can they honor someone they don’t respect? What do they have to celebrate? What can they write in a card to someone they resent?

Teens need help with this Dilemma. It’s not just a Mother’s Day dilemma, for some of the teens in our life it is an everyday struggle. How can we help teens who are at war with their mothers?

Three words fill my heart when I see teens struggling with their mothers.

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The journey to inclusion is the road less traveled. It’s a road I didn’t even see until I had my own wrestling match with God. I’d been traveling a safer road of ministry. This safe road led me to teens who were like me, where I challenged students and didn’t allow them to challenge me. This was a road with no room for detours or curves. When I realized the road of exclusion I was on was a dead end, it broke me. All along I thought God led me to this safe road and that on it I would experience successful youth ministry. But the heart of God was leading me to a different road, the road of inclusion. See the safe road I was traveling before avoided dangerous students, neglected hurting students, and was afraid of students who didn’t match the Christian profile.

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What happens when three youth workers, who have never met, meet at Starbucks? A trifecta of encouragement, unity, and collaboration. I experienced this trifecta at SYMC just over a month ago. I met complete strangers who were excited to swap youth ministry stories and their passion for God over a grande vanilla blond roast.

It’s been over a month since SYMC, and I’m determined to continue seeking friendships with my fellow youth workers. So here’s what I did recently. I goggled churches I pass on my daily drive and wrote their youth pastors an email. In the email I introduced myself, and Dave, the new youth pastor at my church. I explained that we’re both new to the area and want to be connected to other youth workers.

Steven from victory church in Westminster was the first to agree to meet with us.Thank you Steven!

Steven reached out to two complete strangers. He poured his heart out about student ministry. He also gave us better understanding of the demographics and realities that create awesome ministry opportunities in our area.

Here are 3 reasons I walked away from our youth pastor Starbucks hang totally refueled for ministry.

1. Iron sharpens iron.
Hearing someone else’s passion for youth ministry is inspiring. It makes you want to get back to your church and re-energize your efforts.

2. Steven shared reminders we needed to hear.

“We’re called to lay a biblical foundation where there is none.”

Information Steven has learned about our area has made him aware that many students don’t have the opportunity to receive a biblical foundation or worldview at home. Steven reminded us that we could offer a biblical foundation and worldview to students where there is none.

“Worship and God moments are key in our relationship with God.”

The closeness students feel to God during worship and special moments like a spiritual retreat, will be something they can hold onto for life. It will draw them back to God in their darkest moments. We should do everything we can to provide a solid worship experience and God moments.

“Spend time with God and do what he tells you to do.”

This is probably the thing I’ll remember the most. I lean on my experience a lot. I never want to forget to get on my knees and follow the leading of God’s spirit. Thanks for saying it Steven.

3. We left the meeting with a new ministry friend and a heart to support one another. Dave and I are praying for Steven and his team and we know he’s doing the same for us.

I love the words written by poet John Donne:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

Great things happen when we get out of our office and off our church campus. Two other youth pastors answered my email and I can’t wait to hang out with them and grow my group of ministry friends.

Reach out to a fellow youth pastor this week and make a ministry friend. Start with the church across the street.

1 Corinthian 12:12
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

Don’t forget to subscribe via RSS or email! Register for Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2014!

 

Check out my guest post about Redefining Urban over at Simply Urban Ministry!!!

Thanks to Leneita and Jeffrey for letting me have a voice over there!

 

The government of Mali gave French president François Hollande a camel for helping them repel Islamist rebels. The president was not able to transport the camel home, so he entrusted its care to a local family until he could make arrangements to bring the gift home. The Malian government was embarrassed to discover that the family entrusted with the camel’s care later ate it! Upon the discovery of the eaten gift, the Malian government promised the French president a bigger and better camel hoping to redeem an awkward situation. I’m serious.

I heard coverage of this story on the radio yesterday after dropping my son off at school. I couldn’t help but think this isn’t the first time someone entrusted another to care for a gift only to have that trust broken (or, in this case, eaten)!

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I’m about to Jesus Juke, but stay with me…

Everyday teenagers take the gift of love and give their heart to someone, only to have their heart returned to them in pieces.

Everyday teenagers take the gift of friendship and dive head first into relationships, only to be pushed out by the same group of friends that once invited them in.

Everyday teenagers take the gift of honesty and share things about themselves, only to have trust shattered into a million pieces. Instead of support and acceptance, they receive disappointment and rejection.

We all know teenagers who have entrusted people with these gifts. Like president François, they’ve discovered that trust is easily broken.

When a series of broken trust inflicts hurt and confusion on the teens we know, we must encourage them not to lose trust and hope in God.

+Allow God to love through you as a reminder that God can be trusted with their heart, their friendships, and their faith.

+Demonstrate God’s unfailing love and restore their hope in the church by facilitating healthy and inclusive community. God can use you to restore a broken heart.

When gifts are stolen, God graciously restores what was lost. In Christ all things are made new. Hurting teens are seeking restoration. May they find restoration through the body of Christ.

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