“…The things that left the biggest impression on me from my youth pastor had nothing to do with his time in his office…”
ESPN made popular the Top 10 sports plays. A local radio station plays The Hot 100 every Sunday. Facebook and websites are always tempting us with lists that have the 10 Best Movies, 10 funniest fails and 10 cutest cat moments. You can find a large amount of podcasts and blogs that boast 12 (or 10, 5 or even 1) rules for life.
Lists are everywhere. They’re click bait, podcasts, blog posts and tv shows. We like lists. It gives us something to debate and we all like the thought of inching our way to getting to #1. And once we get done with one list, there are always links to the next list to go to. You could spend hours going through lists on Facebook alone.
So I’ve decided that with my time here on this blog I’ll give you a list. I’ve thought long and hard about this and had a lot of ideas for what kind of list I’ll tackle and I keep coming back to the same thing. Now that I’m not doing youth ministry anymore I find there are times when I look back at my time in youth ministry and assess how I’d do things differently. So that’s what my list will be. I’m going to give you my list of six things I’d do differently if I had to do it over again.
At the end of my list, I am hoping you can walk away with some thoughts as to what I feel is key to youth ministry that I wasn’t aware of when I was on the front lines. Sometimes we get so caught up in the weekly routine and pressures of ministry that we don’t give ourselves time to evaluate how things are going, assess what we can change and figure out how to do better. So maybe when I get through this list at the end of the school year, you’ll hear my heart and make a few changes.
So here we go, I’ll now give you my first thing I’d do differently. Drum Roll please… #6 on my list of things I’d do differently is… Get out of the office and spend more time with teens.
Office time is important. Personal time is important. There will always be an administrative side to ministry. And chances are, if you are full time with your church you probably have administrative tasks that aren’t even a part of youth ministry. Spending time in your office is also a great chance for self-improvement and learning.
But if I had to go back and do it all over again, one of the changes I’d make was to pursue relationships more. I’d give an hour or two less to my sermons (6-8 hours a week for a teen service should be more than enough in my opinion). I’d give an hour or two less working on the game for the week, or working on visual aesthetics I spent a lot of time in my office planning out the youth night. I would also put a fair amount of time on my graphics or power point or finding the right movie clip to enhance my sermon.
Those things are important, yes. But when I bump into someone who was a part of my youth ministry in the past they never talk about how good my sermon’s power point was, or how cool the graphics were, or how on point the song list was. They never mentioned how that dumb and dumber clip really enhanced the 2nd of three points on my sermon on April 4th, 2008. The first thing they talk about is the relationships they miss having. They talk about the trips we took, that time we went out for ice cream or the time he threw a firecracker into the bonfire and scared me half to death.
I’m 20 years removed from being a teenager in youth ministry and two things I remember the most from my youth pastor were both relational. I remember that he used to take me out on Saturday mornings once a month to get my hair cut and he used to show up to at least one basketball game a season. The things that left the biggest impression on me from my youth pastor had nothing to do with his time in his office. I’m sure he was a great speaker and I know he put a lot of time into making our youth nights special for us. I just can’t remember any of them.
In my experience if you want to leave a legacy that will leave it’s mark 20 years from now it’s going to take some personal relationship. It will take you getting out of the office more. It will take you giving less time adding to your stage presence and first impressions and giving more time to people. Try giving one more afternoon to someone. Find the teen who is home alone in the afternoons and take them out for ice cream. Find the kid who plays sports, but doesn’t have anyone at his games and catch a few this season. Find the kid who isn’t a part of any clubs or sports and bring him back to the office and make him your assistant. Find that kid who is struggling with homework and sit next to him while he does it.
So number 6 of my list of what I’d do differently is to make relationships and people more of a priority. I’d get out more. Connect more. Relate more. I promise you that if you give 2-3 hours a week to personal relationships your sermons will still get done, your room will still be great, your game will still be fun and your teens won’t even notice that you’re in the office more, but they will notice that you're in their life more. So that’s number 6. We’ll see you next time for #5!