I received an email some time ago that I thought was worthy of posting to give the readers of brianaaby.com a glimpse into the heart and mind of other Youth Pastors. I sought permission from this Youth Pastor and let him know how I thought his or her words accurately portrayed the mindset of many of us (even if just for a season). This YP was unable to attend a network lunch but wanted to share with the rest of the group his response the discussion topic I had thrown out for that month: In your ministry, where is the sometimes fine-line between motivation and manipulation? Where is the Spirit-leading vs. where are you trying to make something happen?
If nothing else, I hope this Student Ministry Stuff (SMS) blog-post will speak to the value of participating in a local network where refuge, encouragement and unity in Christ are key elements!
I’ve changed his or her name to “Jordan” just to be silly and gender-neutral!
Over the last few months, God has been working in my heart like never before. I must admit, as a youth pastor, my selfish motives get in the way many times. “How I would love to see our youth group grow to 500 teens!” Don’t get me wrong – those 500 kids represent 500 souls, but in my selfish mind – those 500 kids would be the fruit of MY success story.
Youth ministry had become more of a functional program (or dys-functional at best) with all of the “bells and whistles” (new TV, cool stage lights, polished band) with the hopes that teens would get excited and start inviting their friends. And our group did grow a bit. Last year, there was some awesome momentum built and we saw some teens receive Jesus which really ignited a spark in our group.
But, something BIG was missing in the ministry. It seemed like at the end of the day (or night), it was status quo for me.
The ultimate problem was – ME. I realized that I was leading the ministry – well, in the power of JORDAN and not God. A MAN-MADE ministry. Sure I would do things like opening up my time studying for a message by praying, “Lord bless this message, amen.” When it came to picking worship songs, they weren’t chosen by prayer, but by what made me sound good. In other words, I really wasn’t coming to God and asking for His leading, I was more or less “winging it” myself.
I had to take a step back and do a spiritual inventory. Here’s what I’ve learned:
God is faithful – He doesn’t need ME to lead the teens. But He’s called me into this ministry and wants to use me. And, He wants ME to get off my duff and get serious for Him, which takes me to 3 months ago…
Up at the crack of dawn, 10 am….. JUST KIDDING! 5:30am which is HUGE for me! – seeking the Lord through prayer, spending time in His Word. Spending time (consistently) with Jesus! Not because “I have to.” But because, I love Jesus and if I’m to lead my family, if I’m to lead others, I need to lead by example.
What I truly believe is going to MOTIVATE the teens (that we all have the honor of leading) isn’t going to be a polished sermon or rockin’ youth band. It’s not going to be in our brand new 60’ plasma (keep your hands off guys!). What is going to motivate the teens is them seeing my love for Jesus and my love for them. I cannot take the teens where I haven’t been. Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God…. He’ll take care of the rest! This isn’t my ministry…. These aren’t my teens…. They belong to Jesus.
Brian, I am really enjoying the youth pastor luncheons each month! I love the group of guys that make up this family! Thank you for putting this group together…
I love you all!
Taking an honest look in the mirror is needed (James 1); I appreciate “Jordan’s” confession and path described. There isn’t a magic-pill or rabbits foot to rub, it truly is about intimacy with Christ. As you grow in your intimacy with Jesus and rely on the Spirit you can’t help but fall deeper in love with the people the Lord will place in your path.