Youth Pastor Failures

young man

It’s not a topic we like to talk about: our disappointments, failures, and mistakes. As a youth pastor, we’re in the spotlight. We’re supposed to be a role model, to live a life above reproach, to be an example in everything we do.

Yet we’re also human.

We’re also sinners.

But how much space is there to be who we truly are, including our failures? [Read more…]

Is your life your message?


My life is my message.

I love this quote from Ghandi. It’s the more poetic form of the well know saying that actions speak louder than words. Don’t get me wrong: we need words, absolutely. I’m not a big fan of the ‘we should preach the Gospel at all times and use words when necessary’ attitude.

We always need words, because you cannot explain the Gospel without words. You cannot teach the Bible without words. Jesus Himself used words to explain the Kingdom of God.

But words alone are not enough. [Read more…]

Conquering ourselves


“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re usually right.”

Henry Ford said those words and I have to agree with them. I am often my own worst enemy and my ‘inner dialogue’ is not helpful a lot of the times, as I struggle with low self esteem.

“It’s not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves.”

It’s why Sir Edmund Hillary’s quote rings so true to me. I don’t know if you recognize his name, but he was the first man to climb Mount Everest together with Tenzing Norgay and Hillary climbed many mountains after that. I have no intention of trying to climb Everest (though one never knows – I;ve certainly grown to love hiking the last year), but I think he’s right. No matter how hard the task before us, it’s not the task that we have to conquer, it’s ourselves.

If we keep telling ourselves we can’t do something, that we’re just not good enough, not holy enough, not old enough or wise enough or whatever enough…then we’ll never do it.

In what area do you have to conquer yourself?


Reading and teaching the Bible as more than soundbites


This video shows why N.T. Wright is such an influential theologian at the moment. In just seven minutes he explains how you should read the Bible: as a whole, not as a collection of soundbites. His analogy of listening to only a part of a symphony instead of the whole thing is as brilliant as it is understandable. I also love that he especially wants to challenge students to read the whole Bible, whole books and not just verses and soundbites.


N.T. Wright on How to read the Bible

(embedding was disable for this video, so you’ll have to watch it on YouTube)

[Read more…]

The 7 regrets of youth pastors (2)


Looking back isn’t always easy. Many of us have regrets when we look back on our life and ‘career’ as a youth pastor. We’ve listed four regrets so far in our first post on the 7 regrets of youth pastors: avoiding conflicts, not communicating the vision enough, settling for a low salary and not training a successor. Here are three more regrets many youth pastors have:

5. Not taking care of yourself

As youth pastors, we seem wired to put ourselves last. We take care of everyone else, but we forget to take care of ourselves. Our own physical health, our spiritual health, they don’t get the attention they need to stay healthy. As youth pastor Jason Sansbury tweeted to me: [Read more…]

There is no formula. There is God.

math formula

“I’ve seen so many brothers and sisters whom I love who follow one paradigm after another. They’re going to Willow Creek. They’ll do 40 Days of Purpose, this model and that model; en they end up discouraged. They find out after 18 months that no system works. There is no formula. There’s God.

This is Christianity. This isn’t copying IBM or Apple. We’re supposed to get before the Lord and find out what God wants us to do. Every church is unique. Every pastor is unique, so we can’t make shortcuts and get some model that we copy in some mechanical way to get the same results so we can be more influential or have a church that’s large and all of that.

When I see that 1,500 ministers are leaving the church every month, I think much of that is discouragement that comes from ‘Oh, that’s the answer. No wait, this is the answer’. ”

Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City, in an interview with Preaching May/June 2012

It was never supposed to be easy


If I reminded of one thing in this week before Easter, this Holy Week, it’s this: it was never supposed to be easy. Life isn’t easy and being a youth leader isn’t easy and that’s how it is supposed to be.

Too often we hear that if you just give your heart to Jesus, everything will be just fine. Or that if you just pray hard enough or believe good enough, everything good will come your way. It’s a lie.

Jesus told His disciples that whoever wanted to follow Him, had to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Him (Mark 8:34). He never promised us a rose garden, as a matter of fact He promised us tribulations, hate, betrayal, and even death (Matthew 24:9,10).

It was never supposed to be easy.

[Read more…]

The seasons of the soul and your role as youth leader


There’s an old Christian song that tells us about the seasons of the soul:

The season in the rain will end at least

A season full of pain will surely pass

The reason will be plain someday when love reveals its core

Such are the seasons of the soul

(Jamie Owens Collins – Seasons of the soul)

In our spiritual journey with God, there are always ups and downs. There are beautiful mountain tops that we never want to leave, but there are also valleys of the shadow of death that make us struggle and stumble. Our walk with God has its good and its bad seasons. It’s a comfort to know that these bad seasons are just that: seasons that will pass.

But what if we are in that rain, in those storms or in a season full of pain? Does that disqualify us as a youth leader? Should we quit temporarily, or even permanently? Can we minister to students when our own soul is crying out for God?

Yes, we can. And we should.

[Read more…]

The role of prayer in sermon preparation

In sermon preparation, prayer is key. If I don't preach God's words, I am useless.

This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth. I always consider preaching to be an awesome privilege, but also a considerable responsibility. When we have 40, 60, maybe even more students in a room to listen to what we will say, it’s an opportunity we cannot afford to let go to waste. Every time I preach, I long for students to be inspired to take the next step in their spiritual journey, to walk out of that room changed and closer to God. I want to make a difference, I want to have impact. So how do I deal with this pressure?

The key is this: it’s not about me. It’s something I’ve had to learn over the years and I still have to remind myself of this. It’s not about me. With preaching more than with anything else I know I’m just a vessel, a tool in God’s hands. None of my human talents, words, or messages could ever make a difference without God’s inspiration, blessing and presence. If I don’t preach what He wants me to, I am nowhere.

In sermon preparation, prayer is key. If I don't preach God's words, I am useless.

[Read more…]

How to keep your day off from getting interrupted by work

Tweet day off

As is customary on Fridays, we do a Question of the week. Today I’m going to go into the issue of keeping your day off, your Sabbath. The actual question was asked in a tweet by British youth worker Dan Crouch a few weeks back and here’s what he tweeted:

I’ve written before on the importance of taking a day off, of keeping a Sabbath. Note that I’m saying a Sabbath, because Sundays are often workdays for youth workers so if that’s the case for you as well, you can pick another day. The key thing is that you have a day a week to not work, to relax and enjoy God’s presence, your family and some down time.

How do you make sure your day off doesn't get interrupted with work, but truly is a day to relax?

[Read more…]