Youth ministry has been described by people as everything from playtime to wartime. If you ask some people about youth ministry they complain about loud music, strange hair gels, and even stranger odors. Other people look at a youth group as a group of young people needing input from God’s Word and other people are privileged to do their part to teach God’s Word to them. This all hinges on perspective.
To me perspective comes from the foundation something is on. The struggles in ministry come when I lose perspective and wonder what I am doing or why I am doing it. To me this perspective comes from my most important part of my day. As I think about it, I think it ought to be the most important part of all youth pastor’s days – or everyone’s day actually.
I have talked to youth pastors who are struggling with their senior pastor or parents over their methods. They will complain about how they have some super cool idea that no one wants to let him try. They might wear all the ‘right’ clothes, listen to all the ‘right’ music, or even ride a skateboard, but they are supposedly stuck in this horrible place where they are being crippled by the people who have a stake in the ministry. The most important part of their day? – the moment when complaints stop coming These people have a very limited perspective.
I have talked to other youth pastors who are so disorganized they don’t even know where they live. They tell me it is because they are so busy being ‘relational’ with the students that they forget details. They see nothing wrong with it, of course. Everyone else around them sees plenty wrong with it, but whatever they tell him just gets lost in a pile of paperwork. Planning for lessons, events, meetings, or anything other than a night of pizza and video games is completely out of the question because there is just no time. The most important part of his day? — the day has parts to it?
Other youth pastors walk around in some sort of martyred state. They will say they work 100 hours a week, are constantly on the phone and Facebook ministering to students all while being paid lower than minimum wage and eating corn flakes three meals a day. They feel under-appreciated and they have started to let it affect how they actually work. There is so much to do that it is hard to know what the most important thing is.
As a youth pastor myself, I get frustrated when people take on these, and many other positions. For all the talk out there about programming, purpose, vision, curriculum, and big fancy conferences that sell stuff, youth ministry is not that complicated. In fact, I think that so much of what is out there actually gets in the way, clutters minds, and fuels some of the notion that youth pastors are only eating the leftover scraps.
This is not true at all. Youth ministry is and can be viewed as a legitimate place to serve. It all starts with the right perspective It starts with people who are serious about the calling and, even more important, serious about their own relationship with Jesus Christ. I can put up with a lot of issues if I stay close to Jesus. My perspective on a lot of things can be far better if I fix my eyes on Jesus. Simply put, the most important part of a youth pastor’s day is time with Jesus. That means every day! It means taking time to spend with Jesus apart from preparing lessons. It means sitting at Jesus’ feet, asking Him what He is saying to you, and acting on it for yourself. This changes attitudes and lives.
I know there are legitimate horror stories in church ministry. I have experienced some of it myself in the past. If you are there, I am not making light of that at all. I get it, believe me. I also know that a lot of the horror can be mitigated if we are all people willing to sit at the feet of our Savior and recognize our place before Him. I know when I do that my ministry is more effective and the Spirit of God moves in more obvious ways among us.