5 Reasons To Meet With Older Saints

Often, as Youth Pastors, we can be so consumed with the tasks and programs in front of us that the only people we meet with during the week are those between 12 and 25 years of age.

In between all those set times of involvement–Sunday services, youth group, small groups, and other meetings–we often have limited time to meet up with others. Students usually end up getting priority as we seek to follow up any pastoral concerns, or continue to disciple them in a one-on-one context. Online we’re chatting to students constantly, answering questions, checking-in, and generally being accessible. Often, it can be a week or two before we’ve had a decent conversation with someone over 35.

Having grown up in the church, as a Pastor’s kid, I’ve always found it beneficial to sit with those who are older than me. Part of that might have been because there weren’t many others my age, but it was also something that happened at church dinners, Sunday lunches, and after services.

5 Reasons To Meet With Older Saints

Over the last few years I’ve found it incredibly helpful to meet up with older saints. Whether they are part of my church, retired ministers, or my grandparents, I always walk away encouraged and feeling privileged to hear the stories of those closer to ‘home’ than I. So, as a Youth Pastor I’ve come to observe five reasons why it’s a good idea to have a cup of tea with ‘the olds’:

(1) Older saints enable a greater perspective on what it means to follow Jesus through the whole of life.

When meeting with an 83-year-old who began following Jesus long before you were born you suddenly realise the commitment required. You realise the faith, wisdom, and commitment that comes from one who has walked the path for so long. And you hear what’s involved in growing and walking with Jesus year after year, decade after decade.

Through hearing the story of an older saint you learn that life is not easy, that the hardships along the way are real and painful and take years to grow through. Yet, they continue to say with the Psalmist, “The Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him” (Psalm 28:7).

(2) Older saints give historical context to your church and ministry.

Unless you’re serving in a church plant that has only recently launched it is more than likely your ministry as Youth Pastor begins at a certain season in the life of the church. The church may have been around for decades before you got there, and I suspect it will be around long after you leave.

Meeting with those who’ve been in the church for many decades provides a greater understanding of the church, its culture, and how it has got to where it is today. There are stories, significant events, ministers, and people who’ve served faithfully across the life of the church. These things aren’t known when you begin at a church, but over time you can gain a better picture of the church’s culture and history by meeting with older saints in the congregation. This can help you understand why the church operates the way it does.

(3) Older saints provide encouragement and inspiration to help you keep going.

If we constantly surround ourselves with young voices then we miss out on a wealth of encouragement and perspective. Hanging only with those who have particular ownership and understanding of the youth ministry will simply add more pressure. We will begin to focus on the short-term and forget the long-term.

Meeting with older saints helps give a long-term perspective, and in doing so they provide encouragement to keep going. There have been Youth Pastors before you, and it’s more than likely there will be others to come after you. The older saints have seen people in the church longer than you. And, more importantly, it is likely they themselves were once the youth leaders and Sunday School teachers in the church. They have a rich history of teaching the Bible and seeking to grow young people, albeit in another time. They know what it’s like to serve and serve and serve and wonder whether they are achieving anything for the Kingdom.

(4) Older saints will pray for you and the youth ministry even more because they now have a better understanding of you and what you’re doing.

I’m not sure about you but I always look up to those older saints who are constantly praying. Meeting with those that are older provides an opportunity for us to learn and get to know the saints of our church. Furthermore, they also get to know us and understand more about what we’re trying to do.

It’s an example of inter-generational ministry.

Out of these conversations these older saints can take more specific prayers to our God. They will be helping in sustaining us personally, and the wider ministry of the youth, young adults, and church.

And hey, I suspect they’ll come up and ask you after a Sunday service how this issue or that problem is going. Suddenly you have an advocate for the youth ministry!

(5) Older saints help you realise what a privileged position you find yourself in.  

Hearing anyone’s story is a privilege.

To have someone open up and tell you their life story, their walk with God, and what is joyful and painful for them is a privilege. And meeting up with an older congregational member is just that, a privilege.

It helps us realise that the role we have in discipling others is a privilege. It helps us realise that hearing the story of one person’s life is a privilege. But more than that, the week-to-week, month-to-month ministry of being involved in someone’s life, old or young, is a privilege that we often don’t realise.

And perhaps, as we walk from the cafe to the car, post-conversation we ourselves will begin to realise what a privilege it is to spend an hour or two in front of one of those older saints.

Advertisements

Does The Youth Leader Need To Be Magnetic?

Is it necessary for a Youth Pastor to have a magnetic personality? 

Often I find myself wondering whether all the great Youth Pastor’s are people who have extroverted, outgoing, positive, and magnetic personalities.

Does The Youth Leader Need To Be Magnetic

On one hand it could be argued that a magnetic personality is almost essential as part of the role. Someone who is able to draw people to the ministry, interact with young people in a meaningful way, and have leaders that are willing to follow means there is some form of magnetism required to the role.

It might be helpful to think of this in reverse too. If a Youth Pastor is sour, socially awkward, unable to interact with people of all ages, and wants to hide away from any form of public speaking then maybe the role isn’t for them.

I wonder whether you believe it is important to have a magnetic personality as a Youth Pastor? 

However, it is unfair to discourage people from leading in youth ministry if they don’t conform to our preconceived ideas of what a youth leader should be like. In doing so we deny people within the body of Christ from contributing in their own unique way. After all, as a body of believers, we recognise that God has created everyone in his image and that each one is a gift for the church.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

While character, maturity, and skillset of each person needs to be taken into account, there is no biblical edict regarding personality that informs the type of role a person should have in the church.

Whether introverted or extroverted, each personality should be able to find their place to serve and build the church.

It may be helpful to be a people person in a people-focussed work, it is not necessary for there to be some special type of magnetism in youth ministry leadership. People may well be better suited to sharing from the front while others are better suited talking one-one-one with others. Some are better suited at interacting with parents and welcoming new people, others are better suited to sorting out the games or the supper for the night. Some leaders might be best suited to help in administration and not be involved in a youth night at all. There are plenty of ways to serve in youth ministry and it doesn’t matter what their personality.

When you consider your own gifts, skillset, and character, where in youth ministry do you think you would best serve? 


This post is a free writing exercise in response to The Daily Post topic ‘Magnetic‘.

Published: Grace In Relationships – The Youth Minister And The Volunteer

A few days ago I had a post published at Rooted Ministry. This is part of a series about ‘Grace In Relationships’. I focussed on what it means to extend grace as a Youth Pastor to those who are committed volunteer leaders in your church.

“Often, relationships can be made complicated in unhealthy ways. However, when grace is the marker in a relationship – youth ministry volunteer or otherwise – that which seems complicated becomes easier. Truth is eventually able to be spoken, forgiveness is able to be given and received, and love and kindness shines through. If you’re sceptical, look no further than the grace given to us through Christ Jesus. I encourage you to seek to make grace the centre of your relationship with your volunteers, as I believe it will not only transform the culture of your youth ministry to another level, but also transform your own heart.”

You can read the whole post here.

11 Things: The Privilege Of Youth Ministry

When finishing up in any youth ministry role, paid or volunteer, I’ve always been struck by the privilege it’s been to have such a position.

There’s something ironic about finishing up in a role and then being overwhelmed with the sense of satisfaction and privilege for being in it in the first place. While doing the tasks and duties associated with the position we are often unaware of the the privileges. We feel the grind and experience the drag, but hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing.

I distinctly remember the feeling of concluding our time in Lebanon. The relationships built, the friendships formed. I remember saying goodbye and realising that it is unlikely I will ever see these people again. It was simply a privilege to meet them and be involved in their lives.

I remember how it felt leaving Canterbury Baptist. We’d been there nearly 10 years and I had made a contribution as a volunteer leader right through to being on staff. There was, and still is, joy, satisfaction, and a large spoonful of pride in what had been accomplished. And of course, there were challenges along the way. Some unbelievably hard. But the privilege of being in such a position is what I remember most.

When in the middle of it all it is easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day, week-to-week tasks that need to be done. The challenges are at the forefront of the mind, not the privileges. But with intentionality I believe fostering a sense of privilege during your time in youth ministry is vital for self-care, sustainability, and perspective.

The realisation of such a privileged position doesn’t have to happen once it’s all gone.

I have small children. And for nearly five years now I am often told by older and wiser parents, “It goes so fast, make sure you treasure every moment”. In the midst of parenting small children hearing the ‘treasure every moment’ thing can get on your nerves. But what these kindhearted people are saying is true. It goes fast, and there are numerous moments to treasure.

The same could be said for youth ministry.

Youth ministry is a privilege.


When you’re in it no one is telling you how much of a privilege it is. Conversations with other youth ministry practitioners usually centre around the challenges and the problems. But let me tell you that youth ministry is a privilege, you should treasure every moment (OK, almost every moment).

This is the final part in the ‘11 Things’ series. It’s been a journey, and we’ve touched on a number of subjects. Each post has explored an aspect of youth ministry that I wish I had known more of before entering this gig. I’ve mused on these topics, and gained clarity for myself, as I’ve thought through what would have been helpful to me over 15 years ago.

To finish this series, and capture the essence of what youth ministry is about, I think it is important to be reminded of the privilege it is to be in such a role.

With that said, here are five privileges I believe are important to recognise in youth ministry.

(1) The Privilege of Influence

A leader is someone who influences others. This can be done with a title, but in most cases this influence occurs through the giving and receiving of trust. In any form of youth ministry role, paid or volunteer, trust is given to you and it is a privilege to receive it.

Even more unbelievable is the fact that you have the opportunity to influence people for good. You become a voice in a young person’s life. A voice they respect and seek when making decisions or dealing with challenges in their life. You become someone they look up to, someone they seek to imitate.

Furthermore, the influence that those in youth ministry carry helps frame how students think about their faith–how they think about God. Youth ministry research suggests that a young person needs connection with five older adults to help make faith ‘stick’. These days it can be hard for a student to find that many older adults interested in intentionally investing in them. This is where youth ministry leaders are so vital, and where inter-generational ministry is a must. The more people in youth ministry the greater the likelihood of teenagers continuing in faith.

Here lies great responsibility and great privilege.   

(2) The Privilege of Partnership

Youth ministry isn’t done in a bubble, solely interacting with students.

Well, it shouldn’t be.

One amazing aspect to youth ministry is the ability to not only be part of a teenagers life but also the life of their family. Connecting with parents, siblings, and the extended family is a privilege.

The opportunity to celebrate with families as they pass certain milestones is a unique aspect to a youth ministry role. Whether it is entering high school, getting L-plates and P-plates, turning 18 or 21, graduation ceremonies or celebrating sporting, art, or music successes, the involvement in family life is a special benefit.  

And then once you hang around long enough you begin to take a more pastoral role with the parents as their kids move out, get engaged and married, and have children themselves.

What a privilege.

(3) The Privilege of Care

This is a massive one for me.

This week alone I could tell you story after story of the significant challenges young people have to face. Everything from the death of a grandparent, to a mental health diagnosis, to the separation of a family member, to the trauma of bullying, to the parent diagnosed with cancer, to the family member involved in a car crash, to the unhealthy home life, to the poor results at school.

Young people are dealing with a lot. Sometimes too much. But it is such a privilege to be one of the first people they message when things aren’t going well. To be someone whom they seek out and lean on when challenging times are upon them. To be a person who they trust enough to share their struggles in faith, home, and life.

The privilege of being there, of being present, is something that cannot be taken for granted.

(4) The Privilege of Teaching

Each week there are times for the opportunity to open the bible and pray with students.

For someone, young or old, willing to sit down for an hour or two and read the bible and pray with you is a phenomenal privilege. They could be doing something else with their time. Instead, they purposefully choose to meet and spend time learning and growing in their faith. The want to make connections between the bible and their lives and pray with others. 

This should blow our minds.

The opportunity to do this keeps you sharp in teaching faith. It makes you think through how to make the scriptures relevant and applicable to teenagers. It brings with it the responsibility to teach the truths of God and allow space for them to explore it themselves.

Having this chance to shape how people think about God and his Word in a deep and lifelong way is a privilege that makes me wonder how we actually get to do this.

(5) The Privilege of Ministry

The fact that churches employ people to help grow and lead their young people staggers me.

It has become normative in churches for the second staff appointment to be that of a Youth Pastor. For a church to do that is quite a statement. It speaks of their intention to invest and disciple young people. It speaks of the priority they have in students. It speaks of the high regard they have for the ministry to teenagers.

Most youth ministry leaders I know would be doing what they do even if they didn’t get paid for it. It’s the passion and heart they have for seeing those in high school come to faith and grow in faith that drives them. This, like anything, can be used and abused. Unfortunately, there are plenty of stories of this happening in churches around Victoria and Australia as we speak. But on the whole, it is a privilege to even have the opportunity to work in this sphere.

Having the opportunity to be employed in Christian youth work, to connect and disciple young people, is such a privilege. To see them grow and mature as people and people of faith is something money can’t buy.

I’m sure there are many other privileges to add to this as well. Some internal, some external. Perhaps you have more you could add to the list yourself. But if you’re involved in youth ministry in any form, whether it’s officially as a ‘Youth Leader’ or whether you happen to play in the church band with a 17-year-old and speak to them every so often, be reminded that it is a privilege to do so.

In all the ministry, in all the challenges, in all the things we do within the sphere of youth work we need to remember that it is a privilege to do what we do.


A while ago I wrote a post about what I wished I knew when entering youth ministry. This is part eleven of a series dedicated to elaborating each of those points. You can read part onepart twopart threepart fourpart five, part six, part seven, part eight, part nine, and part ten here.

11 Things: Working Better

‘Adulting’ according to Urban Dictionary, is:

“…to do grown up things and hold responsibilities, such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage or rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown-ups.”

When entering youth ministry it is not uncommon to be in our early to mid-20s. In all reality, there is little of life lived and much more of life to come. Some things we aren’t taught in school and one of those things is adulting.

Part of adulting is having a system to deal with all the adulting things we need to do in life and work. Having a system to deal with these things can be learnt and is important in any job, relationship, or area of responsibility you might find yourself in.

With this in mind, I wish I had a better idea of organising my workflow and system when entering youth ministry. I have always considered myself someone who is pretty decent at organising and planning. For example, I have colour-coded calendars that tell me what’s coming up in church and family life. I have a spreadsheet that details every book I’ve read since 2005. I keep my books in categories. I keep notes of conversations I’ve had with people. I used to rename individual photos according to date and place. So, yeah, I think I’m OK at this organising thing…sometimes a bit too much.

But starting out life in my twenties I had no idea. It took me a number of years, through working as a Personal Trainer and Gym Manager, and into missions and ministry, before I felt I had a good system.

This system refers to how one handles their to-do-list and what you do with all the life administration you end up doing. This can include how to deal with email, reminding yourself of the improvements you need to make when running that camp again next year, setting a date to write a report, trying to remember the contact details of a new person at youth group. And so on.

There is a lot to deal with in youth ministry, and in life, so a system to deal with this is always helpful.

If I had my time over again I would begin thinking through this stuff earlier than I did. In many ways this is a learned process but there are plenty of resources to help young Youth Pastors think through the skills they need to improve as part of the job. In youth ministry there can be plenty of things going on in church life and it is hard to keep all the balls in the air at once. If starting out again, I’d think about how to structure my week, how to get my emails down to zero, how to plan the next 12 months and the next 3 years, how to understand the rhythm of the church’s year, how to deal with budgets, and how to plan one-off events.

All this non-people work makes our world turn on its axis.

What’s it called?

That’s right, administration.

The death of many a good Youth Pastor.

In every job there are things that people don’t really wish to do. Some can be delegated but others need to done. This is one of them.

So really, I’d simply encourage you to read two books.

First, Do More Better by Tim Challies, outlines briefly how to approach a working system that is adaptable to your needs and scaleable to your work and life context.

Second, What’s Best Next by Matt Perman is also an excellent resource on how to think about personal productivity and then how to apply it.

Administration, it’s not the sexiest topic. But it’s important if you’re wanting to learn more about how to actually do the job of youth ministry in amongst all the caring and events.

It’s something I wish I knew when I started out.


A while ago I wrote a post about what I wished I knew when entering youth ministry. This is part ten of a series dedicated to elaborating each of those eleven points. You can read part onepart twopart threepart fourpart five, part six, part seven, part eight and part nine here.

The Relevance Of Jim Elliot For Youth Ministry

Let me tell you about Jim.

Jim was an active young man who enjoyed sharing his faith with others. He was a social kind of guy. He liked people and people liked him.

He grew up in the United States and was an excellent student in high school and university. During these years he became a Christian, and from that point sought to share his faith with everyone he knew. In university he led a bible study and was the editor of the college newspaper. He studied hard, and received good grades.

At one point he became interested in a girl. This interest occurred as he was exploring options to serve God in a mission capacity overseas.

jim_elliot_by_gregchapin-d6jqcxv

He married Elisabeth and they moved to Ecuador as missionaries. They first learnt the language before moving out near the jungle. Jim had a passion to reach a group of people who had never heard the name Jesus before. He wanted to share Jesus with them and had a few friends wanting to do the same.

After a couple of years Jim and four other friends began to search for a tribe that had never heard about Jesus. They did a number of flyovers of the jungle looking for a particular tribe, their huts and living arrangements. After a number of months they found the tribe they’d been looking for. They began to gently make contact with them through giving them gifts; gifts of food and other packages useful to their tribe were lowered out of the plane they were in.

On one particular day they decided to make closer contact with the tribe by flying to an open area near the village, landing on some hard sand next to a river. The whole day the team chatted with a couple of people from the tribe the best way they knew how. They were encouraged, believing they had made a good impression.

Unbeknownst to the group the rest of the tribe had surrounded them as they had been talking throughout the day. In the thick of the trees and scrubs of the jungle were the men of the village. After dark these tribesmen came out of hiding and killed them, putting an end to their mission task.

Once the guys didn’t arrive home the wives and children soon realised what had happened. In the weeks and months following many, understandably, left Ecuador for home.

But this isn’t the end of the story.

Jim’s wife, Elisabeth, and their daughter, ended up making contact with the tribe. Elisabeth and her daughter became friends with this tribe and ended up living with them for a number of years.

They lived with the people who had killed their husband and father.

Over the course of time the tribe turned to Jesus and from its violent ways into a loving people who cherished the Good News.

The story of Jim Elliot and his wife Elisabeth is a famous story in mission circles. It is a story that has inspired many people to take the leap into cross-cultural mission, and I’d have to be included with them.

However, this isn’t simply a story worth limiting to global missions. It can also be a story relevant to us in youth ministry. Here’s how:

First, Jim’s story reminds us of the concern for sharing the Good News. 

This Good News is the story of what God has done through Jesus. It is the story of God creating and calling a people to himself. It is a story that understands each individual student, parent, family, church member, and member of society, as a loved, cared for, and important person to God himself.

In youth ministry we seek to connect God’s story with the stories of those who we come into contact with. We seek to connect the Good News with the story of each individual connected with our youth ministry. Jim’s story is a reminder that sharing God’s story is to be at the forefront of what we do. It is what we are to be passionate about and committed to. It is a reminder that our youth ministries are to be mission-shaped.

Second, Jim’s story reminds us to be strategic. 

There is strategy behind the plans Jim and his friends had to achieve their mission. This strategy was thought out as they tried to show their love and care for the tribe in a respectful and meaningful way.

In youth ministry it’s important to have a strategy in determining how you go about what you do. Sometimes this might be in your head, but eventually it is worth having something written out in order to explain what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. A youth ministry without a strategy is like going on a car ride without a map. It helps keep you focussed and helps you know when you’re heading off track.

Third, Jim’s story reminds us of the need for passion and commitment.

No one will deny Jim had passion and commitment. Jim realised the need to be involved in the long-term mission task. He had a passion to share the Good News and to make it known to people who wouldn’t have known otherwise. He also committed himself to this task, commitment even to death.

If you’re in youth ministry and don’t have the passion for it, nor the commitment to it, then why do you even #youthmin?

Passion doesn’t need to be loud and proud, it might be through an inner sense of satisfaction. Commitment will be shown through your presence, your people interactions, and your punctuality to name a few character traits. Encourage those traits and stoke that passion…or find someone to take over.

What inspires me about Jim’s story is his willingness to share the gospel with people and to also share his life with them. He not only gave his live for the cause of Christ but was seeking to share his life with people he didn’t know. He was one of five young men to be martyred that day in 1956, all striving to share their faith with this unreached tribe who had never heard the Good News before. Yet, it took their death for the sharing of the Good News to this tribe to occur.

I doubt you’re putting yourself on the line like Jim Elliot and this mates did when rocking up to youth group on a Friday night. That’s OK. But, whatever your youth ministry looks like remember that it is like double-sided sticky-tape, its about sharing the Good News and about sharing your life.

“…because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:8. 

11 Things: Fixing People vs God’s Grace

I walk into church.

I know what to expect. I’ve been to plenty of churches and services before.

I’ve been a Pastor’s kid. I’ve been a volunteer. I’ve spoken up the front. I’ve been on staff. I’ve been part of committees and organising groups.

I know church culture like I know how to drive a car. I know what the people are doing up the front.

I know most of the songs. I know the typical Baptist liturgy, the three-song sandwich.

I’ve sat through plenty of prayers. I’ve let the bowl pass plenty of times. I’ve taken the bread and the juice regularly. I’ve listened to plenty of people’s stories. I’ve heard sermon after sermon after sermon.

I know what to expect on a Sunday morning.

But what I didn’t expect was that feeling of being more burdened when I walked out of the service than when I walked in.

That surprised me.

For a few months, having recently finished up my position as Youth and Young Adults Pastor, I found myself confused.

I thought going to church would now be easier. There’d be no pressure, there’d be no one watching, there’d be no one expecting anything of me. I could sit, I could listen, I could let it all wash over me as I reflected and worshipped God.

But, there I sat. I sat hearing those prayers, listening to the songs, concentrating on the sermon, and participating in the gathering. Yet, the more I did this the worse I felt, the more the burdens piled up on my already heavy shoulders.

As I’ve reflected on this experience there are no doubt plenty of reasons for feeling like this. The loss of previous identity, the over-cynical nature of my mind, the attitude of my heart toward church. I also realised that what I was looking for was grace, hope, and a sense of God’s love for me personally.

Instead, I was given proof-texted lifehacks for a healthy life. I was being fed fast-food that seemed to taste nice at the time but became ugly as time went on.

For a season, I sensed layers and layers of guilt being added to me when walking out of a church service. I was guilty about my relationship with Jesus. I was guilty about my actions and attitudes toward those around me. I was guilty about my parenting. I was guilty about my spending habits. I was guilty about my responsibilities.

I came out feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. That all I needed to do to be living the Christian life was to do more of whatever was taught that particular week. Rather than finding the alleviation of guilt, shame, and sin that the worship of God through the Spirit brings I was finding my already full to-do-list was being added to.

As I look back on my own brief ministry and church experience I realise that little time is spent providing opportunities of being fed God’s grace.

The church service is often a place where people come once a week, if you’re lucky, and seek to hear God through his Word with his people. Yet, I know I have been guilty of things, of just giving fast-food topped with ice-cream for dessert. Often we give a short-term fix to long-term problems. We give little balm for their hurts and pain, providing cheap Band-Aids that soon lose their stick.

In youth ministry we often plough ahead with the program. We outline what’s coming up and hit the main topics of relationships, sex, social media, and other ‘youth culture’ issues. We often bring the fun, the excitement and the loud. But it is also about time we as Youth Pastors thought about bringing the grace.

How do we provide spaces for young people, and those in our church, to understand that God is a God of grace?

We’re all very good at giving advice and providing correction if something doesn’t go the way we think is right.

We’re all very quick to help with the practical but often unwilling to sit with the pained.

The disruptive kid at youth group. The youth leader who always brings the negative. The parent who is always on your back. Each needs grace.

People are not only sinners but they are sufferers too. They are enduring life and busyness and all that comes with the daily tasks of living. It’s a wonder so many make it into church on a Sunday, or to youth group on a Friday as it is!

Let’s not attempt to fix people. Let’s provide spaces where God can work his grace.


A while ago I wrote a post about what I wished I knew when entering youth ministry. This is part nine of a series dedicated to elaborating each of those eleven points. You can read part onepart twopart threepart fourpart five, part six, part seven and part eight here.