Is It Wrong To Share Your Faith?

I was recently listening to the “Youth Culture Matters” podcast where the hosts were interviewing David Kinnaman, the President of the Barna Group. Barna is a research organisation and has written extensively about the intersection of faith and the generations, particularly Millennials/Gen Y (born ~1980-2000).

In this latest interview, and off the back of Barna’s most recent research, the conversation centred around the view of Millennials and evangelism.

To the question, “Is it wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith?” 

  • 47% of Millennials (born ~1980-2000) agree.
  • 27% of Gen Xers (born ~1965-1980) agree.
  • 19% of Boomers (born ~1945-1965) agree.
  • 20% of Elders (born ~1925-1945) agree.

Australian Baptist Generational Ministry Research (1)

While this isn’t particularly earth-shattering it is interesting to have this information in data form. We can see that nearly half of Millennial believers are not comfortable with thinking about sharing their faith in order to have someone from another belief system converted. Interestingly, at least 1 out of 5 believers of the other generations also have the same view.

Anecdotally, I think I would affirm what this data seems to be saying. I know plenty of people my age and younger who are not particularly willing to share their faith for evangelistic purposes. And there are no doubt a few reasons for this.

First, the purposes of sharing faith these days seems to be more about expressing our beliefs and portraying our values to others, it doesn’t seem to be for the conversion of others. Holding to our own values and holding to our own beliefs is now something taught at a young age. Culture seems to say we can pick and choose from a variety of belief systems and therefore whatever we have in front of us is our own truth. This has certainly seeped into the church and so faith becomes more about what we value of faith rather than keeping to a particularly orthodoxy.

Second, whenever there is talk of evangelism I know a lot of people cringe. They begin to think of Billy Graham rallies, which were great for a certain group of people but not the way we think of healthy evangelism in this era. There is also the thought of missionaries overseas who through Christianity has influenced plenty of cultures, some in poor ways. The cultural adaptation of the gospel hasn’t been applied and soon enough it has become a Western faith, rather than a global faith for all. The thought of evangelism and telling people there is one way and that way is through Jesus is looked on poorly.

Third, the training of people in evangelism hasn’t been high on the agenda. While the church and mission organisations may well have been speaking about the need for evangelism the training of the people is lacking. I’m not talking about sneaky techniques to try to persuade people and twist their arm into becoming Christians. I’m talking more about how we can foster faith conversations, and encourage people to invite friends into faith conversations and groups. It is one thing to hold a particular evangelistic talk, program, or group, it is another to have people who are confident enough to strike up conversations about religion and faith.

They were some initial thoughts off the back of listening to the conversation. You can listen to the podcast here, and read the more detailed article explaining the data here.

There seems to be plenty of work for those of us in the church and in mission organisations as we seek to see the gospel go forth through the generations.

Published: 5 Benefits of Considering Youth Ministry as Intergenerational Ministry

Youth ministry is at its best when it seen as part of the whole church. Rather than seeing youth ministry as its own thing–simply useful for a certain generation–it is important to see it as significant and influential on everyone in the local church. This is why I agree with much of what has been written in recent years about the importance of intergenerational ministry.

I wrote a little something about this recently, and it was published on The Gospel Coalition Australia site.

“I’m sure we’ve all got our own stories about people of different ages impacting our lives and faith. It should be a natural part of discipleship. As the gospel is accepted, so it is to be passed on: from generation to generation. God is to be made known through our families—both biological and ecclesial.”

You can read the whole piece here.

You can read other pieces published elsewhere here.

Published: Youth Ministry Is Not Just A Stepping Stone

Yeah, so I’m pretty excited and encouraged to have had a piece about why youth ministry isn’t just a stepping stone to becoming a lead pastor published on The Gospel Coalition. I have known for a little while it was going to happen, it has just been a matter of waiting patiently. It was published a few days ago and can now be found here.

“A common misunderstanding about youth pastors is that they’re training for the higher ranking position of lead pastor. While it’s true many pastors once worked with youth, the two roles are distinct. Senior pastors who’ve previously served as youth pastors can provide encouragement and understanding. They can also channel their experience into unrealistic expectations, perhaps beginning with the refrain, “Back when I was a youth pastor . . .””

As an aside I was encouraged even further to find my piece, Redeeming Love For Run-Down Parents, was also being promoted at TGC. Unbelievable.

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You can read other articles I’ve had published elsewhere here.

Reflections On The Rooted Ministry Leadership Summit

In May just gone I had the privilege of attending a leadership summit organised by the US-based youth ministry organisation Rooted Ministry. I’ve written for their blog over the past couple of years and enjoyed many of the articles they produce. Unbelievably, I was invited to attend this small summit in Birmingham, Alabama with other 40 like-minded youth ministry practitioners.

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This summit was three days of being fed in my faith, my love for God, my love for youth ministry, my love for writing, and for ministry in general. I made some great connections and friends, and was edified by everyone I met. I saw and heard more about American Christianity and life, and I also experienced some amazing Southern hospitality and food. Incredible.

In the months since this summit I have often reflected back on what I learned and the different conversations I had. Below is an outline of some of those reflections under four distinct questions.

Where Was God?

This is always a hard question to answer, because of course, God is everywhere! But, it is always worth asking because it helps us observe and be intentional about where we believe God is impacting us. It’s the kind of question I constantly ask on short-term mission teams, and we as a youth ministry ask it at the end of each youth night. The question is worthwhile in this context too.

I believe I saw God at work in:

  • The conversations I had with the people and those I connected with. I stayed with some friends before I arrived at the summit. It was great to reconnect with them and hear about how God has been shaping them and their lives in recent years. The conversations I had with my hosts and at the social gatherings of the summit were often powerful. And also, God was at work in the small group conversations we had as our writing and speaking was critiqued by others.
  • The terrific teaching we had from pastor and preacher Robbie Holt. Robbie was from a church in South Carolina (I think!). He spoke from Genesis 27-33, the story of Isaac, Esau and Jacob. It was certainly encouraging; and in some ways was preaching I hadn’t heard in a while. The applications to church, youth, and family ministry was particularly beneficial.
  • Having a greater understanding of the vision and passion of Rooted Ministry. To hear more about the beginnings and then the hopes for the ministry, the impact it is having, was really encouraging and felt like ‘home’ in some sense. An organisation that upholds the grace of God, theological depth, and relational youth ministry.

How Was I Encouraged?

I was encouraged in ministry through:

  • Understanding more about the breadth of contexts there are in the US, but also seeing how similar some of them are to Melbourne and to me.
  • Hearing the stories, the challenges, and encouraging growth of God at work with people, youth pastors, and the ministry itself. Often it is hard to find the encouraging stories in amongst the trees, but they are always there.
  • Realising that many of the issues to church-based youth ministry and youth pastors are issues everyone has to deal with in their own contexts. Issues like human sexuality and gender, social media, biblical illiteracy, evangelism and mission, loneliness and isolation, and mental health.

What Was The Impact Of This Summit?

I think this summit will impact my future ministry in the following ways:

  • I am encouraged to be even more conscious of shaping the ministry through the Bible.
  • Thinking deeply and theologically regarding ministry shape and philosophy, including pastoral responses and issues.
  • I’ll continue to mentor younger youth pastors and emphasise the use and effectiveness of the Bible in their youth ministries.
  • This summit has put a greater urgency in the mission and evangelism aspects to youth ministry. The summit highlighted for me the importance and urgent need to think and speak in evangelistic ways in youth ministry.
  • I was also reminded of the need to gain clarity on strategy for our youth ministry and family ministries. This includes communication of that strategy, particularly to new students and families. In a world where most parents believe youth group is going to be either, (1) a saviour for their child or (2) a place where they find wholesome values that are similar to their own experience, it’s important to outline why we do what we do.

Why Was It Worthwhile?

It was worth going to this leadership summit because:

  • It helped build relationships and hear encouraging stories of other people involved in youth ministry.
  • It provided exposure to different contexts. There were youth pastors from all over the States and provided a microcosm of experiences and issues people were dealing with in their own cities and towns. The US is the largest youth ministry market in the world and as ideas on youth ministry filters down through resources coming out of the States; no doubt Australian youth ministries will be impacted by them in the future. Having a first hand experience with a number of people from different parts of the US has helped me in understanding this more.
  • It strengthened my alignment to Rooted Ministry as a youth ministry organisation. I was grateful for the grassroots type approach to the ministry that they are seeking to undertake and encourage.
  • It has made me reflect on the state of youth ministry here in Melbourne and Australia. There are very few, if any, youth ministry organisations that are solely church-based, with the similar approach to that of Rooted Ministry.

All in all this was a terrific time and a worthwhile week. It was a privilege to be invited and have the opportunity to go. I look forward to writing for them more and perhaps reflecting further in coming months. I’m very thankful for the opportunity given to me because of the generosity of Rooted Ministry, my church, and individuals too.

5 Learnings From Being ‘Acting Senior Pastor’

Earlier in the year my Senior Pastor went on paternity leave for three weeks.

I was technically ‘Acting Senior Pastor’ during that time. There were extra responsibilities. This is what I learned.

5 Learnings From Being 'Acting Senior Pastor'

1. The amount and variety of decisions required to be made is enormous.

This is the main difference between what my role is normally and what I stepped up to.

It took me nearly two weeks to realise the main difference in roles was that of decision-making.

Each day there were new queries, new decisions to make, new things to have conversations about and then make follow up decisions to enable progress. Upon reflection, I realised that the decision-making required is at a new level, a level you just don’t get at the associate pastor level.

At first I was tempted to put this down to not being used to making these decisions, but after further reflection I don’t think it’s just that. I need to make many decisions in the associate role, some I’ve been used to making for many years. But in the senior role there are a greater variety and range of questions asked of you, leading to a greater variety and range of decisions required.

2. The regular preaching is a joy and privilege.

I expected to be weighed down because of the extra preaching load. Rather than preach once a month or so I had to preach five out of six weeks.

Maybe it was the series we covered, an expositional series on the book of Ruth, but I was enthusiastic and excited about teaching and preaching each week. It was great to prepare for it as a series and to then present the material through the preached Word each week.

3. The one-on-ones became more reactive than active.

In reality the extra load did mean there were some things I didn’t do that I normally would’ve. One of those things is actively searching out young adults and others for one-on-one catch-ups during the week. Instead of being active is sourcing these meetups those I did have were usually reactive. That is, people would call and want to meet, or people popped by the church office and sat in with me for a while. Both are important of course, but I do prefer being active rather than reactive.

4. The phone becomes more important than ever.

The invention of the phone has got to be the greatest thing in the ministry kit bag. I was on the phone a lot more, particularly through phone calls, than I usually am. Part of this is the greater number of people who want to talk to me, or share something, or who I needed to follow up. But, the phone became a great resource for me to have pastoral conversations and show care to those in the congregation.

5. The true day off, mentally and physically, is nearly impossible.

I am usually pretty good at switching off and making sure I’m not available. But, I also find myself thinking about youth ministry a lot because I am passionate about it. I like to reflect, write, and think through it.

In the senior position I found myself thinking about the church, its people, and the ministry more often than I would normally. People didn’t know when my days off were and so I would get calls on every day of the week. This led me to then take the call or return the call on the same day because of the context I am in. And so, a full day off of nothing was something that became harder to implement, even though my intentions were to do so.

There’s a lesson in self-care here somewhere.

Published: Bible-shaped Youth Ministry

I’ve managed to re-work a short talk I recently delivered into an article for The Gospel Coalition Australia. It’s all about the usefulness of the Bible in shaping youth ministry.

“I can’t remember what we were explicitly studying during that season, but I do know that we were walking slowly through a book of the Bible, verse-by-verse, section-by-section. Through this experience I, and I’m sure the rest of the group, came to realise not only in the importance of the Bible but its usefulness as well.”

You can read the whole thing here.

Youth Ministry With The Headphones Off

As I drive on my commute, when I’m at the gym lifting iron, and often as I am falling asleep after a long day, I’m wearing headphones.

I listen to a variety of podcasts and audiobooks, trying to learn something new or enjoy a good story while being productive in other ways.

At the gym I’m focussed on two things. First, to do the exercises I’d like to do for the day at an intensity that will improve my health. And second, to listen to whatever is coming through my headphones.

As I look around the gym I notice everyone else doing the same. Everyone has headphones in their ears, listening to something they enjoy while working out.

As a side note, I think those who are actually working the hardest at the gym are often those who aren’t listening to anything. But I digress.

Often, I notice myself lowering the intensity of my exercise because I’m listening to something I’m interested in. Rather than being focussed, and pushing myself for the set of lifts, I’m more interested in what I’m hearing and so drop my intensity to around 80%. Instead of listening to my body, or pushing myself to achieve more, I have my focus elsewhere.

I wonder whether we do the same when we come to youth ministry?

Youth Ministry With The Headphones Off

Most of the time our connection points with people during the week happens while doing other things. It could be trying to talk to a student when youth group is about to begin. It could be a deep conversation with a young adult but small group has wrapped up and they’re about to be picked up. It could be talking to a parent after church but there are others lining up to speak with you.

In youth ministry there can be plenty of things, either in the moment or during the week, that can distract us from putting our full energies toward the task at hand. Whatever it is, there can be moments when we are distracted or lose focus.

The much overused verse from Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31 is still true and valid, even for distracted youth leaders.

“…whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.”

This can apply to anything we put our mind to, and is relevant for us as we think about ‘focus’. To actually focus on the tasks at hand, such as, organising an event, having a conversation with a parent, introducing a student to another, creating the actual program, or driving someone home after their parents forgot them, will go a long way in glorifying God through our youth ministry.

This focus is intentionality.

It is about being present.

It is about the moment.

Perhaps it is time to take the headphones off and begin to focus on the youth ministry tasks at hand.

Here It Is: Paul Roos, Leadership, And Youth Ministry

I recently finished reading the latest book by Paul Roos, “Here It Is: Coaching, Leadership and Life.” Paul Roos is a very successful AFL coach and highly sought after for his man-management and leadership coaching. This year I’ve enjoyed listening to him in the commentary box and was intrigued to read how he approached coaching and working with teams.

I often wonder how closely coaching an elite sporting team and being involved in Christian ministry align. Obviously, there are significant differences, and the markers of success are worlds apart. However, leadership is still leadership and so part of reading this book was to gain insights for youth ministry. As I read the book I was constantly thinking how his principles for leadership applied to youth ministry. I found much of what he talked about helpful because (1) I enjoy sport and AFL, and (2) I could see his approach being similar to other things I’ve read or heard regarding ministry.

Below are 10 ideas I found helpful. I wonder if they impact the way we approach youth ministry ourselves?

Here it is

(1) The Importance Of Relationships

Roos emphasises relationships as the key to success at a football club. He played at a time where it was ‘old school’ football. A time where the players would simply train, turn up to play, and do whatever the coach would ask. Often there was little relationship between players, coach, and other staff. After observing this as a player he decided to approach things differently and have a focus on positive inter-club relationships.

In youth ministry (and church ministry) it’s all about relationships. I’ve been reminded by this in other ways recently, and will hopefully elaborate on that in coming posts. But, needless to say, everything in youth ministry is about relationships. It’s about relationship with God and relationship between people. It’s about relationship with pastoral staff, it’s about relationship with leaders, and between leaders. It’s about relationship with young people and the relationships they have between themselves. It’s about relationship with everyone. Youth ministry is about relationships.

(2) The 25-points

Within a month of finishing up as a player Roos wrote down 25-points that were essentially values and standards he would articulate and live out as a coach. These 25-points include the majority of the points I am drawing out here, but the point is he actually wrote down the values he wanted to keep to and they helped guide him in his coaching.

I wonder whether we as youth ministry write down standards and values that guide us in our leadership? It is worth considering what is most important to you, and where you believe leadership in youth ministry should be focussed on. When being interviewed for the role I currently have I took with me a sheet of paper that had some key scriptures for the way I approached ministry and also seven, what I called, ‘Pastoral Pillars’ that would be my guide as a Youth Pastor. The headings for each of these were: (1) Relational, (2) Disciple Development, (3) De-Program, (4) Leader Development, (5) Mission Posture, (6) Framed Risk, (7) Grey OK. This helped me articulate where I was at and also informed the committee who they were getting. I found it helpful. I think they did too. Do you have something similar?

(3) The Calm Leader

Roos played in an era where coaches going off their head was common practice. Giving a good dressing down, dragging the players off the field and onto the bench when they made a mistake, and generally trying to motivate players through yelling and shame. Roos saw this wasn’t benefiting anyone, particularly in keeping morale up, developing players, and providing motivation. His response was to make sure he kept himself calm. He made sure he was emotionally stable in his leadership and provided confidence in doing so. He didn’t want to react in an emotionally volatile way when winning or losing.

In youth ministry, are you a stable and calm leader? A big influence on me has been the idea of being a ‘non-anxious presence’. That is, someone who is calm, not anxious, and emotionally stable during times of upset, crisis, and conflict. I have wondered whether this can be detrimental when certain situations call for passion, enthusiasm, and excitement. But, in general, a person who leads in youth ministry needs to be calm and in doing so inspire confidence and trust in their leadership.

When a kid has fall and breaks their foot at a youth camp, be calm and deal with it appropriately. When a leader seems to be going through some sort of crisis and requires some extra attention, be calm and deal with it appropriately. When a parent doesn’t like an action that has been taken and let’s fly with their complaint, be calm and deal with it appropriately. In youth ministry, we need calm, non-anxious, leaders who in doing so help inspire, motivate, and build trust with people around them.

(4) The Time It Takes To Develop People

Roos understood that it takes time to develop players. He comments that the age of great learning for a footballer is 18-22 years old. They get drafted, and then take years to develop in their skills, learning about the game, and general aptitude for elite AFL football. Recognising this, Roos seemed to do a few things. First, he made sure the players understood his game plan, their role in the team, and the skills required for top level football. Second, he took time in bringing them into the elite league of the game, often keeping them in second tier competitions for longer than other coaches would. There is the implication that it takes a number of years to develop as a player, helping this development from a young age was his goal. This was clear within his chapters on leading the Sydney football academy for talented teenagers.

In youth ministry, it takes time to develop faith and to develop in leadership. I think faith could be explored separately to this, but leadership and learning the ropes of youth ministry can begin to be taught while students are still going through youth group and the youth ‘programs’. The youth programs can be tools for discipleship, leadership development, and possibly even church leadership too. But even if we’re intentional it will take time. As hard as it sounds, not all people will have the character or aptitude for youth ministry leadership, I don’t think God has made everyone equal in this regard. However, there are plenty of people who one may not think as ‘youth ministry potential’ who are able to learn and grow in their leadership skills. This simply takes time.

(5) Everyone Has A Role

Following on from development is also the question of role. Roos outlined clearly how everyone in the team had a role. Sometimes this was different to what the player had always known. The player may have believed that getting 30 possessions a match was his role, but actually, his role was part of a larger system, the team system, to which they all played a vital part. If that player only had 20 possessions but played their role as they were supposed to then the team had better success than if they went it alone, believing they had to win the game for the team. Roos believes that everyone at the football club has a role and it needs to be defined. Everyone from the President, CEO, Senior Coach, Assistant Coaches, and the players. In some ways, this aligns with another of his values, which was to deal with every player individually, knowing their personal strengths and weaknesses. This avoids lumping everyone into the same box. It is about getting the most out of each person.

I wonder how we view our youth ministries? Do we do that for our students? For our leaders? For our wider church? The Youth Pastor has a role, that seems to be more defined than others in the church. But, I would argue that just as Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 writes about the body of Christ, so too, everyone in the church has a role in regard to youth ministry. It’s just not defined or communicated. Therefore, rather than getting every youth leader to be involved in everything on a Friday night perhaps some people are better at talks and should those gifts more often. Perhaps others are good at social media and should look at being communication co-ordinators. Perhaps others are good at running games, explaining them well and getting the group involved. Perhaps others are good at administration and should be looking at the database and helping people in that way. This would help with leadership development, understanding of the various facets of youth ministry, and also help with delegation.

(6) Team Formed Standards And Values

A key aspect to Roos’s approach with coaching was to involve every one of the players in determining what the team stood for. The team would have a pre-season camp and flesh out what their values and standards were. This would include values like honesty, hard work, and a never give up attitude. As these values made their way through the team the players themselves would be the ones enforcing the standards. In this way, everyone is invested in the performance of everyone else. Not only on the field, but also off it.

Could this be a way forward for youth leadership teams? I know I’ve done this a little with my youth leadership teams. We’ve created some leadership commitment guidelines to help guide what it means to be a leader in the youth ministry. I’m sure this could be enforced more, and with each other helping to lift their game in various areas. As an example, one of these guidelines is child safety. If a leader goes outside the bounds, say, initiates a hug with a student, and another leader sees this, they would then pull them up for it. If there is feedback given in terms of the talk or a game, then another leader can do that – encouraging them and also helping them to improve. I see big advantages when the leadership team is invested in creating the standards and values of the ministry.

(7) A Yearly Review

Each year Roos would sit down with each individual player and work through strengths and growth areas.

In youth ministry this would be worth doing also, not only together as a team but individually. As a Youth Pastor I would expect to catch up with my leaders reasonably regularly anyway. But, there could be an intentional one-on-one at the end of the year. This could touch on topics such as discipleship growth, spiritual disciplines, church involvement, and an area to grow in next year.

(8) The Attitude That Rubs Off

Roos knew that his attitude would rub off on the players. As the central leader of the club his attitude meant everything. He made sure he was positive and had a positive outlook on the club, the players, and what they could achieve. This doesn’t mean he never made critical judgements about what was going on or was disappointed in players actions. He simply wanted to be positive in his attitude no matter the result.

Youth ministry isn’t in the win-loss premiership game, but we still have indicators that mean we are satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going. At the end of youth group leaders can be up and about because they believe the night went well. Or, they can be flat and a bit disappointed. A process for assessing each youth event and program is vital. But, even more so, the positive attitude of the main leader keeps the big picture in mind and helps other leaders assess correctly. The attitude of the Youth Pastor or key leader has a big impact.

(9) The Game Plan

Once all his big blocks of values and standards, attitude and roles were in place Roos also had a game plan to win each match. This game plan seemed to be the same from year one to year ten. It didn’t seem to change much. However, there was a plan. As it has been said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.

It is important to plan in youth ministry. Not just planning a few months out but also having a plan for each event, small group, or youth group night. It is important that everyone on the team knows that plan. I am one who prefers to have those plans early in the week. Others prefer to bring the plan to the night an hour before we start. In any case, a basic plan for us on a Friday night is (1) Welcome, (2) Games, (3) Talk, (4) Discussion Groups. We may also include a time for snacks or for making sure a couple of leaders are at the door when parents arrive for pick-up. After the night is done and things are packed up we as leaders gather and chat through the highlights and lowlights of the evening. It is important to have a plan for youth ministry, one that is broad and one that is specific.

(10) Communicate, Communicate

With his commitment to relationships Roos had an emphasis on communication. He kept it simple and constant. Communication between everyone was vital is sustaining relationships and also reinforcing the values and standards of the football club.

If there is little communication the youth ministry will not go well. There is communication needed between many different parties and in a variety of ways. Communication between Youth Pastor and leadership team and pastoral team. Communication between youth group leaders and parents and students. Communication between youth ministry and wider church. Any relationship you can think of relating to youth ministry requires some form of communication. It is an important part of the gig. And at the end of the day, it is another key aspect to building relationships.

On Youth Pastor Position Descriptions

About a week ago I wrote a short Facebook post out of frustration:

“Another day, another horrible position description for a youth and young adults pastor.

Sorry churches, Superman/woman can’t even run a youth ministry, facilitate the young adult ministry and lead an evening congregation on 12 hours a week. #wecandobetter #rantover.”

I don’t like to complain too often in public, as it seems most social posts these days are that way inclined. However, this comment did receive a little traction, including some private messages from people hoping I wasn’t referring to their church’s search for a Youth Pastor!

But I did write out of frustration.

The particular position description I came across was horrible for its expectations on the Youth Pastor, its lack of time allocated to do a good job, and its focus in outlining specific tasks. And, it is not uncommon to see horrible job descriptions for Youth Pastors like this. Expectations and responsibilities stated on paper, in black and white, often far exceed the capabilities of the possible employee, particularly if the position is part-time.

But rather than just write a frustrated Facebook post, here are some further reflections and suggestions on youth ministry job descriptions.

notasuperhero

(1) It is positive churches want a youth ministry practitioner.

Having a church willing to give time and money and resource to help their young people and families is extremely positive. Whether it is 1-day per week or full-time, we must acknowledge that the willingness of a congregation to do this is a positive one.

(2) Budgets, more often than not, drive the time allocation. 

It’s worth naming that the church’s budget is a huge determining factor in the time allocation of Youth Pastors. It is obvious that the church has to have a certain level of income in order to pay their staff. However, this can also skew the thinking of leadership teams when they are driven to fill a role rather than use it as a vehicle to help the church’s vision in ministering to young people and families.

Just because the money is there does not mean you should automatically search for a Youth Pastor. And just because the money isn’t there doesn’t mean you can’t have a vision for youth ministry in your church.

(3) The time allocation for the role will determine the quality and experience of applicants. 

A person with over 10 years experience, a theological degree, and a young, growing family isn’t going to be looking for a Youth Pastor job that’s 2 days per week. A newbie to youth ministry in their first year of Bible College, with an internship under their belt, is unlikely to be the person for a full-time role.

The allocation of days per week will have a factor on who applies for the role. The number of days the church puts into a role will determine the quality and experience of applicants. This should determine the expectations, development, and breadth of responsibility put upon the YP.

(4) Understand how long tasks, events, and projects actually take. 

From reading a number of position descriptions over time there seems to be little understanding of how long things actually take. It may surprise some that it actually takes time to prepare a bible study, to run a youth group program, and to develop leaders. In any week a variety of things can pop up that mean the ability to complete some tasks will take longer or be pushed out.

That’s what happens when working in the people business.

It would be worth churches talking to other Youth Pastors to gain a realistic understanding of how much time certain tasks and events take so they are done well.

(4a) Include every commitment necessary into the time allocation.

If there is a mid-week bible study, a Friday night youth group, and a Sunday morning and evening service then by my reckoning there is around 10 hours of actual program time. This neglects to include the time for preparation of said programs and the time for setup, pack-up and debrief. If they’re included then it balloons to around 16-20 hours depending on the length of the programs.

That’s already 2-days per week for a Youth Pastor to do some very standard, line-and-length youth ministry.

This doesn’t include the 1:1 meet-ups, pastoral team meetings, administration, follow-up of young people and families, the development of leaders, church or committee meetings, professional development, and any space for visioning, thinking and brainstorming of what is to come.

It’s important to include everything. Churches should be just and fair workplaces, if not better.

(5) Understand that people are at the core of the Youth Pastor role.

While the tasks, events, and projects are important the Youth Pastor views the role in terms of people. As I’ve said, the church is in the people business.

When the position description simply states all the programs the applicant is responsible for then it doesn’t inspire much. But, if the PD states the vision for the ministry, the goal of helping people understand and grow in faith, help families and children grow closer to Jesus, and provide care of the youth and families in the church, then there is something more appealing.

All the programs and activities that happen in a church are simply vehicles for ministry. The ongoing check-ins, catch-ups, dinners, and the like are what help, grow and care people.

Sometimes a vehicle can get too old or the needs for a particular vehicle change. Going from a couple to having a family often means the change of car. The needs change. The same can happen in churches and their youth ministries. Understand it revolves around people.

(6) Provide time for growth and development. 

It is not easy to find a position description for a Youth Pastor that specifically states they will grow and develop the person. I haven’t found churches overly great in professional development. Sure, we all grow in the job, that’s definitely the case. However, if funds and time are allocated for conferences, further training, and study then this will help the person, and will more than likely keep them in the role longer.

(7) Be specific about what your church is hoping to achieve, be broad in how that will happen.

It’s all well and good to want a Youth Pastor, but why do you want one?

Is it because the families in your church are wanting their kids to be looked after at certain times of the week, given a bit of Jesus, and a sprinkle of fun? Or, is it because there is the recognition that young families, young people and young adults are a priority for the church going forward?

Is it because you need to fill particular tasks and so hiring a YP will mean Friday nights and bible studies will happen? Or, is it because there is a vision to develop lifelong faith in children, young people and young adults?

Be big on vision. Give a sense of what you’d like to achieve. But don’t dictate the path. Allow the congregation and potential YP to capture the vision and then let them fulfil it using the appropriate vehicles. A dictatorial position description shows a lack of trust. A vision-orientated one doesn’t.

(8) Have confidence in knowing the Youth Pastor will be putting more pressure on themselves than anyone in the church. 

It’s true. The YP will be tougher on themselves than anyone else. They will be more willing and more driven to see people come to faith and grow in that faith. Trust that. Believe in them.

I think that will do for now.

More could be said around support from superiors and the church’s leadership, which I have mentioned previously.

Hope this helps.

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.