The Ageing Youth Pastor

For the last four years I’ve been behind the front lines supporting and encouraging Youth Pastors as they work on the ground in youth ministry. Time out has been good but for a while now I’ve missed it. Hence, I’m back and loving this new season here at Rowville Baptist.

Jan_Lievens_-_Study_of_an_Old_Man_-_WGA13006It goes without saying that in the last four years I’ve aged. Everyone has. The guys I tracked with in my previous church were finishing up in Year 12, now they’re about to finish uni. I haven’t been a Youth Pastor in my 30s until now. I didn’t have a daughter four years ago.

This isn’t a bad thing. Not at all.

In fact, I think it is to my advantage coming back from a little break.

As I’ve reflected on this in the last few weeks I’ve noticed three particular things about myself that I believe will help me be a better Youth Pastor this time around.

1. Passion

I’ve realised my passion for youth and young adult ministry in a church setting has stayed strong. It’s where my sweet spot is. It’s what I enjoy doing and where I’m confident in being fruitful for the kingdom.

In fact, it’s off the back of a conference last year where I began to think seriously about getting back into the day-to-day of youth ministry and the low embers were fanned back into flame.

2. Perspective

In four years I’ve been given a lot of perspective.

Through the all-consuming nature of church ministry it is hard to see the forest for the trees. I’ve realised what a privilege it is to be walking with people as they explore faith and seek to follow Jesus. Being part of that can feel overwhelming and monotonous if you don’t have some perspective. I’ve been able to look at what’s important and what’s a waste of time to worry about. It’s been refreshing, particularly for someone who was born into a Baptist church 33 years ago.

There are of course stresses that come in the short-term but it is the longer-term view that is so important to have. The slow growth of the gospel working its way into people’s lives and helping them to become more like Jesus. Youth ministry isn’t a fast game, as much as I’d love it to be, it’s for those who see God building His church in His time.

3. Productivity

Finally, I’ve become more productive.

I’ve learnt how I work best, when I work best, and what tools I need to work more efficiently and effectively.

Tim Challies recently wrote a book called Do More Better, in which he explains a system to help people work more productively. I was pleased that the three tools he uses were the ones I’d been using for a while (FYI – Google Calendar, Evernote and Todoist). It takes time to learn how to work and particularly in a role that is so flexible.

If you’re a Youth Pastor I’d encourage you to work on your system. What are the things in your life that help you work at your best? Are you a morning or evening person? Are you planning well, in life and ministry? Are you getting enough exercise or recreation in order to function at your best?

These are three observations about myself that I’ve noticed since being back in church-based ministry.

What about you, what observations can you make about yourself as you age as a Youth Pastor?

Book Review: The Pastor’s Kid

the pastors kid bookMy father is a Pastor.

My grandfather was a Pastor.

My great grandfather was a Pastor too.

When I was a boy I lay on top of my bed one night balling my eyes out.

The reason?

I didn’t want to be a Pastor.

Because of the heritage of my family I thought that to be a ‘Coombs’ meant you had to be a Pastor. I looked down the generations and saw that the first born son turned out to be a Pastor. Something at the age of twelve I didn’t want to be.

This was one of many unique challenges I can remember growing up as a Pastor’s kid (PK). Granted, this was more a phenomenon of our family’s rich Christian tradition. Yet, there are other challenges of living with the forever abbreviated title of ‘PK’ that others don’t face. And these challenges are the reason I find the book, ‘The Pastor’s Kid’ by Barnabas Piper an excellent book.

Piper has recently published this book about PKs for PKs, Pastors and churches. A book that “describes the unique challenges PKs have faced being the children of ministers”.

Throughout the book Piper seeks to serve individuals and churches by highlighting the challenges that come from being a child with a Pastor as parent. Through his own experience as a PK, and conversations with others, Piper gives insight into these challenges. As he puts it,

“The constant pressure to be something, do something, and believe something creates enormous confusion for PKs. And one of the main confusions is about who we are…”

After all, nobody chooses to be a PK, you’re either born into it or brought into it through the calling of your parents.

On one hand it is a privilege. The constant meeting of new people from different parts of the world. The hearing of what God is doing in different countries and places. The unconscious absorption of biblical teaching. And the community of people that you’re surrounded by. All these things provide the PK with tremendous opportunity to hear about God, what He has done, and what He continues to do.

On the other hand, it is a situation where the fishbowl of the local church can strangle the life out of you. Where there is an ambivalence to the truth because you’ve heard the stories so often. Church becomes a place where everyone knows of you, but no one actually knows you. Where expectations are laid on thick, from parents to congregation. And, of course, where you get to see the ugliness of sinners dealing with sinners from the front row.

Therefore, PKs turn out differently as they seek to find themselves within the life of the church and the world around them. Some stay within the faith, following in the steps of their parents. Others rebel, leaving the church behind for a life apart from God. And others end up finding God and their place in the world in a way that is their own.

Piper rightly highlights the need for grace for the PK, as they seek to grow from within the all-encompassing nature of church ministry. Grace that is experienced and shown, not just told. Grace that recognises that legalism and rules won’t help. Grace that recognises the PK has their own journey of faith-discovery and self-discovery. Grace that is therefore holistic, unassuming, respectful and full of hope for the PK as a person. Grace that comes from Jesus Christ, shown through the Pastor and the church.

A PK isn’t anyone special. They are as special as everyone else. But they do have unique challenges.

This book is a great conversation starter for you and your family. I’d strongly recommend you buy this book – read it and talk about it. It’ll help you as a PK. It’ll help you as a Pastor. And it’ll help you as a church member.


This book review was also posted on the Baptist Union of Victoria’s ‘Witness Blog’ on the 22/09/2014. 

Are You A Youth Influencer?

From: Salvos
From: Salvos

Everyone is influenced by others. For better or for worse there are influential people in our lives that, well, have an influence on us.

I sat around a table with other youth leaders not long ago and as each of us shared our stories it became evident to me that we’d all been influenced by an older person when we were growing up. It was interesting to hear that the main person for each of us was either a youth pastor or a youth leader in our church.

As a leader of young people and young adults it can be surprising as to how much influence you can have over others. It’s certainly been the case for me where an older person has been influential – a youth pastor, an older friend, a parent, and a member of the church has influenced my faith and life in general.

But, I find that it’s not just the official youth or young adult leaders that have influence on younger people. There are others within a church setting that can influence younger people despite not being an “official” youth leader.

For example:

  • The worship leader who interacts with the younger band members. This can occur on Sunday’s but also at practices during the week and other times. Sometimes the worship leader may have more to do with the younger person than the official leader/s.
  • Young adults who hang out with the high-schoolers before and after services. Not all young adults are going to be official youth leaders but they may still go to the same service that many of the youth groupers go to. After the service is a great time to hang out and also go out for supper. During these times other attenders of the church can be influential without even knowing it.
  • An older member in the congregation who has a heart to see young adults grow in their faith may simply strike up conversation at morning tea. Here there is the cross-generational thing happening but also the influence of an older person toward a younger person.

There are plenty of other examples to use. Perhaps you can think of some that happen in your church too. But the point is that despite not being called a youth leader or a young adult pastor or a lead generation connector, or whatever title you want to give yourself you may actually be a “youth influencer”.

Instead of marking territories in terms of who’s a youth leader and who in the church is responsible for the youth and young adult ministries, perhaps a more wholistic way to look at is that everyone does have there own part to play. Quite often it might be the people you least expect to be influencing the next generation.

Are you a youth influencer?

7 Evernote Tips For Youth Pastors

Evernote is one of the most used apps on my phone and computer.

Here’s seven tips on why Youth Pastors should be using it.

7-evernote-tips-for-youth-pastors

1. Evernote Helps A Youth Pastor Organise Events

Anything from camps to small group socials to the stock standard youth night. Evernote helps you keep organised and plan an event coming up.

Writing lists, storing information about what needs to purchased, and delegating which leader is responsible for what. All these things can be stored in various notes.

The helpful tagging option allows you to bring up all the notes about “Awesome Camp”, which can then include details about registration, budget, what to buy, and the contact details for the campsite itself. There are a number of ways to put together a particular youth event but having them all in one central place is helpful.

Once the event is done and it’s time to debrief this is where notes can be kept and help you improve the next time it comes around.

2. Evernote Helps A Youth Pastor In Designing The Youth Ministry Programme

Young people and youth leaders are full of ideas about youth events. Nearly every week there will be one person that comes up to me and says, “We should do […insert event here…] next term.”

Evernote enables you to store information about future youth ministry activities. This can include details of what it is, contact information, and the links to the websites. When coming to organise the next term’s programme this will make the process a lot easier. Pull your phone out, have a look at what’s there, think about whether it achieves what you’re after and put in on the planner. Easy.

A local roller-skating rink posts me information every now and then with their information for youth groups. All I do is take a picture of it, store it in Evernote, and boom. It’s sorted and searchable for when I need it.

3. Evernote Helps A Youth Pastor Remember A Good Game

Games + Youth Ministry = Fun times.

How many times do you find yourself, perhaps at the end of a night, where there is 15 minutes to spare and you’ve run out of games?

No Youth Pastor should be without a few games up their sleeve. They’re the bread and butter of many traditional youth groups and youth ministries. Evernote allows you to store heaps and heap and heaps of games on your phone and computer, easily accessed in seconds.

Storing games you’ve come up with yourself, finding a few gems on the net, and even taking a few notes from games some of your leaders come up, can all be stored in Evernote. Tagging them into what kind of games, i.e. Adventure, Messy, Group, Ice-Breaker and the like becomes extremely helpful too.

4. Evernote Helps The Youth Pastor Remember Conversations With Young People, Parents And Leaders

Last year I held a Parent Afternoon Tea and jotted down some of the feedback given. There were a few new ideas floating around and also some encouraging things being said about the youth ministry. At the end of our time together I took a photo of the discussion notes, uploaded them to Evernote, and they became searchable using their technology. This has helped me remember what we talked about and we we could implement in the future.

After a conversation with a Youth Leader I type out some brief bullet point notes in Evernote so that I remember what was said and the action points decided upon. This helps me to know where my Youth Leaders are at with a variety of matters and also helps me in following up the next time we catch up.

This is so much more useful than some form of text file stored on the computer. Here I have them all in note form and in my hand.

5. Evernote Helps The Youth Pastor Store Contact Details Of Other Youth Pastors, Young People, Leaders, And Churches

The amount of ‘networking’ events for those in Christian ministry is quite extraordinary. Every week there are multiple emails promoting different organisations, churches, and leadership events. It gets confusing and tiring.

Anyway, Evernote helps me to store the contact details of those I actually want to stay in touch with. Sometimes it might be the dreaded business card (Does anyone actually use these anymore?) , take a pic, snap, upload, sorted. Sometimes it is simply me entering the information of the person right in front of them, or even handing the phone over and asking them to enter it themselves.

Having knowledge and contact details of those in my area, those I wish to continue a working relationship with, and organisations who could be helpful for our youth ministry is handy to have. you never know when you might be of support to someone or they to you. Having their details on hand and in an easy to find place is awesome.

This could easily apply to people in the youth ministry, church, and others.

6. Evernote Helps The Youth Pastor With All That Ridiculous Administration

Every job has administration, the Youth Pastor can’t avoid it either. However, Evernote provides a great solution in storing what’s important and also the not so important.

I get sent a fair few things via snail mail and these things can easily be scanned and uploaded to Evernote directly. It was only the other week where I read an article in one of the Christian papers and then took a picture of it for Evernote and future use.

But there is other stuff too. Receipts and invoices, important emails you want to keep in one place, and even those rare thank you notes you receive from people. These can all g into Evernote, be made searchable, and like that you’ve cut down on paper, reduced the need for a filing cabinet and stored them forever.

7. Evernote Helps The Youth Pastor Write Talks For Youth Ministry

Every youth ministry should have some form of talk that is Bible-based and aimed at encouraging, equipping, or evangelising youth people. I regularly do them, as do my Youth Leaders.

With Evernote I can write up that talk in plain text then take my phone with me to the front of the group and go bang. Granted, I do prefer paper for that purpose but if I was to ever lose or have my talk stolen by one of our members then I can easily retrieve it on me device.

Evernote provides heaps of editing options to helps highlight important things to say and remember for delivery. Using the search and tagging function also provides good reference for the future. For example, when speaking on the Rich Young Ruler from Luke 18:1-18 I can have my notes in Evernote and tag them, “Youth Talk”, “Jesus”, “Wealth”, “Gospel”, “Cost”, “Works” etc.

In sum, Evernote is a great app for Youth Pastors to use and enables them to be better organised, which I think produces a better Youth Pastor. It helps in ‘doing’ ministry, and we all know we need help sometimes. There are plenty of other things I’m sure we could come up with. But hey, seven is a godly number. Let’s leave it there.

Are you a youth pastor that uses Evernote? How does it help you?

The Sadness Of Ministry Closure

When things come to a close it can be a sad time.

When we come back from overseas after a wonderful holiday, when we say good-bye after a lovely dinner with friends, when the inspiring movie could have gone on much longer but had to come to an end. There is often the feeling of sadness.

So it is with youth ministries and programs that come to a close.

The Sadness Of Ministry Closure

At a recent ministry meeting a team of us decided to close a ministry that has been going on in our church for the last three years. For the past 18 months many of the main leaders in this program have left and moved onto other things. Others have simply stopped participating and helping out, not making it a priority. And some, sadly, have left the church and the faith altogether.

The feeling of the team was that it is best to lay the program down for a season or two.

And, it is sad.

It is sad because it is something many have put their hearts and souls into.

It is sad because it is a ministry that was loved by parents, students, and the wider church.

It is sad because relationships were strained because of the program and the stress involved.

It is sad because the investment of money, time, and effort into something like this brings with it an emotional connection.

But my pastor, who chaired the meeting, reminded us all of John 12:24,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” 

Our ministries, and church programs, including our precious youth group or camp or event, are like the grain. Sometimes they must fall to earth and die in order for more fruit to be produced.

Looking at this verse in closer context we see that some Greeks have come to see Jesus. From Andrew to Peter the message of these visitors is passed on to Jesus. Jesus responds by telling these visitors that his time to be glorified is close, very close.

What the…?

We find shortly after that Jesus is actually referring to his death. Through his death the disciples and the believers will bear much fruit.

But as Jesus continues to speak he says the following in v25-26:

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.”

What a challenge!

It seems we are to look to do the things of God, look to do the work of Jesus, which is to die and be a sacrifice to the world.

How then does this relate to ministries and programs dying? 

Well, maybe it is the case of having to let them die so that more fruit can come from the wider ministries of the church. And maybe, just maybe, it is the case that we are to adjust our focus to Christ and look closely at how we serve him, realigning our ministries with his.

Romans And The Next Generation

This past week I have spent time reading the book of Romans.

It is such a great book.

Paul beautifully sets the foundations of the Christian faith in chapters 1-8, focuses on God’s hand and work in our lives in chapters 9-11, and then highlights the response we are to make in chapters 12-16.

It is a wonderfully written sermon which really nails the gospel of God.

In recent days mission, outreach, and evangelism has been on my mind for the first time in a long time. My ministry as a Youth Pastor needs to be focused on these things and Paul reminds me of their importance in Romans.

The gospel is needed desperately in the inner-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and very much needed by those in high school.

A vision of the Almighty needs to be cast for young people to see that there is hope and purpose in this life. There is no point in carrying out a ministry that doesn’t make hope in Christ front and centre. He should be placed up high, worshipped, magnified and made known to those who need Him–the next generation. He is surely more satisfying than Facebook, Flo-Rida and McFlurry’s!

Where can hope and purpose be found? Christ. Not just what He has done but also who He is.

As I evaluate how to be culturally appropriate to those under my care I continually think of how I can magnify Christ to them too.

May the Lord give grace upon grace in reaching this generation.