Want to make your spouse happy and be in youth ministry for a long time? 3-4 times a year spend an hour or two synchronizing your family + youth ministry calendars together. Spent some time this morning doing the same!
Michael Conaway sent along a great post his wife wrote on her blog that I really enjoyed this morning. You Might be a Youth Pastor’s Wife If is a fun post, totally relatable that begs for you to add a couple of your own. Here’s a couple of my favorites, head there for the rest:
1. You schedule your pregnancies around youth camp. Being down one parent every other week for 2 months is difficult enough, no need to add a newborn to the picture.
5. When your toddler says “crap” in the church nursery and you let the nursery workers assume she heard it from the teenagers…even though you know where she REALLY heard it…mental note to self stop saying “crap”.
10. Taking students home after church becomes a game to beat your best time and not cross the midline of town more than once. Students are divided based on gender and location. Who takes which vehicle is based on who has to take more students home.
This week we’re on the topic of time off—and one of the best ways to make sure you use your vacation time in the hectic youth ministry world is to plan your vacation: RIGHT NOW.
That’s right…put some dates on the family and church calendar today and reserve your right to get away. Look for an opening (if you’re like us there will only be a couple of choices anyhow), and stake your claim.
Plan a weekend getaway.
Weekends off in the church context are rare, so find something fun to do that will really refresh you to keep going in the long haul. If you’re smart you’ll find a 3-day weekend and really make something special out of it. Make some memories in those 48-hours you’re off the grid.
Plan some time with just your spouse.
We’re shocked at how often we hear our fellow youth workers share that it has been YEARS since they slipped away for a night with their spouse… without their kids. Getting alone time isn’t easy, but it’s well worth it (for all sorts of reasons!). Can’t get away overnight? How about a regular date night? Can’t afford a regular date night? Then do it on the cheap (Netflix, anyone?), but DO IT.
Plan something refreshing right after the busiest season.
After summer camp you need to build in some comp time for yourself. Give yourself a day or two break when you come off a big event to acclimate to the real world. This summer we both took some extended time off after one of the busiest seasons of ministry we’ve ever had. And we planned it months ago so our families knew the reprieve was coming soon.
Your context and freedoms are different than ours, but grab your calendar right now and block out something next month and something next year. No joke. Do it right now!
This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.
This is my favorite week of the year – I’m sitting in a hotel room in Palm Desert at our annual Student Ministries Retreat. It is a life-giving week that our church gives the people who serve youth workers and their spouses. While we have no formal sabbatical (how do I get in on that, come on!) but this is so generous.
So I’ve got a few blog posts set to land while I’m gone – but thought a quick list of a few past articles about vacation, comp time and retreat might be helpful. Here’s some of my favorite stuff on this topic in the past here on MTDB:
Married? Not married? Not married, and haven’t had a date in years? Wherever you find yourself today, here are some thoughts about loving your current…or future…spouse.
Youth workers love surprises–but too often our spouses end up with the predictable and stable part of our lives. While there’s nothing wrong with stability, it’s also a good idea to take the same creativity that helps you think up crazy games and invent an unexpected way to love your spouse. This week, make it a goal to love your husband or wife in an unexpected, surprising way.
Love your spouse in front of your students.
There’s nothing wrong with letting your students see that you love your husband or wife. That doesn’t mean you need to incessantly refer to them as “hot” (that’s actually a pet-peeve of ours, and our wives ARE hot), or make out with them in the church van on the way to the retreat. But it’s important to remember that your students are watching your relationship; it might be the most important lesson you teach them all week.
Love your spouse in front of your kids.
Same thing goes with your own children (if you’ve got them). They need to see you in love with each other, too. That doesn’t mean that everything in the home is perfect, but through the good, bad, and the ugly you share a loving commitment to each other and to Christ.
Love your spouse when no one is watching.
A consistent loving relationship can’t only show up when people are watching. Make sure you love your spouse when you aren’t trying to be a role model to your teenager. Youth ministry takes a toll on marriages. Sadly we’ve seen it first-hand far too many times. One of the best ways to model healthy marriage within your ministry context is to do the hard work of building a healthy marriage behind the scenes.
Love wins every time!
This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.
I’m so glad Amanda is back to blogging! After too long away from it this summer, her blog Married to a Youth Pastor is back and better than ever. In addition to a funny new contest giving away a spouse registration to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference, she is back with some insight and raw learnings about youth ministry from a wife’s perspective. Honestly, turn your spouse on to her blog, it is so good – if I find one as awesome for husbands, I’ll be sure to post a link. Here’s a clip of a post called Swept Away where she talks about dialing in the youth ministry calendar with their family one:
We (Jeff and I) HAVE to take control of our schedules and family again. No more excuses of “seasons”. Something “important”, and “urgent” is always going to come up. We have to exercise our “NO”. I have to take responsibility of this as well. I let myself get lost in the shuffle. In no way is this only Jeff’s issue. I have a voice as well. And a smart brain that listens to God’s voice and can hear what’s good and bad or unhealthy for myself, my marriage, and my kids. I really got swept away (and right under the carpet).
I say this a lot… “After 14 years in full time ministry, you’d think I would have this down!”
You don’t have to be a youth worker very long before you feel the urge to quit. The challenges of ministry swirl together to create a daunting vortex of difficulty – church politics, ineffective leadership, slashed or non-existent budgets, elders, “the way it has always been”, conflicting visions, personality clashes, relational pain and so much more. I realize I’m not painting a beautiful picture of youth ministry right now, so hang with me.
I would say for most it hits somewhere around the end of your first year – for me it was a couple years in. The honeymoon was over and I got my first taste of church ugliness. You start to think about quitting. You’re just not sure you’re cut out for it. You wonder if the elders on the church board are even Christians.
I’ve quit many times before – only to be brought back to life by 1) realizing the problem could be overcome, 2) the words or encouragement from a close friend, or 3) realizing that ministry isn’t pretty or easy, but I’m called to it. If you’re feeling pretty low, I hope these point you in the right direction today:
Fight through it
Get behind the feelings of failure or frustration – are you ready to quit over a problem you created, a person you loathe or a situation that seems beyond repair? Throwing in the towel is an impulsive decision that has been thought about for a long time. [I realize that sentence doesn't make sense, but I really like it]. One final person, comment or failure pushes you off the cliff – the only choice you have left is to call it quits. But don’t settle for simply giving into the barrage of emotion. Is it really the end of the world as we know it? Is there really no hope? Is God truly done with you where you’re at? Be careful to test your emotions and motives when the going gets tough – you might be surprised what you find a little deeper under the surface. It probably is about half as bad as you think it is. Still bad, but worth fighting through.
Surround yourself with people you love
The biggest rescuer of my urges to quit are the teammates that I love. Surrounding yourself with great co-laborers is absolutely key. My spouse is number one – when I’m down she knows what to say, when not to say anything and what to ask to get me out of my funk. My team is a close second – people that I serve with every day in the trenches of youth ministry. Some of the people that share my passion, hopes, dreams and frustrations of ministry pick me up. Do you have some key people on your volunteer team that you love being around? Do you have a safe place to vent or talk through a situation? Our family loved having dinner with an amazing couple and their daughters this past week. Absolutely life-giving.
Remember your calling
I have a moment … that whenever I feel like quitting I hold on to. I was sitting in the Dean of Men’s office at the college I was attending, he simply said, “Josh, you would make a great youth pastor. Why are you going into business?” That conversation led me on a journey to what would eventually be a divine calling into youth ministry. That key mentor in my life pointed me to an opportunity, we prayed, God answered. I’ve served in 2 churches since then (one in Michigan, the other here at Saddleback) and have both had incredible highs and lows – and I remember my calling vividly when things get tough. Why did you get into youth ministry in the first place? Hopefully there is a memory or spiritual moment where you recall God calling you to serve His children. Maybe at first you just volunteered, and God did something in your heart. Maybe you’re still volunteering, but you know you’ve been chosen for this work.
Seems like I’ve been getting more and more emails from youth workers ready to throw in the towel. Maybe God is moving you? Certainly could be. Maybe it is a test of your character and He wants you to stay put? Either way – honored to be in the same profession with you, my friend. Hang in there.
Help someone who’s ready to quit youth ministry with a thought/encouragement in the comments, too.
Tom Pounder blogs every day at Not a Mega Church – a blog that encourages and inspires youth leaders from small to medium-sized churches with practical tools and knowledge to build a ministry that will have a lasting impact on generations to come.
On Tuesday, June 8, Stephen Strasburg pitched his first major league game. Now, if you know nothing about baseball, then the name Stephen Strasburg means nothing to you. But, if you are a baseball or Washington Nationals fan (I am both), then this was a very important day. He has been called the savior of the Nationals, a Phenom, the real deal. If you want to read more about his first performance, you can read columns in the Washington Post by Thomas Boswell here and Mike Wise here.
Has anyone ever described you as a youth minister that way? That you were going to save the youth group? That you are a Phenom? That the students love you and will do anything for you? I bet people have described you that way at some time or another. The problem is that when people (especially people in Church Leadership) describe you this way, they are setting yourself and themselves up for failure. They are putting the weight of the program on just 1 person. They are relying on the Youth Minister to be a superstar and to perform at extraordinary levels constantly.
The reality is there are NO superstar youth ministers out there. As much as I bought into this lie when people kept on telling me how great I was, I realized that being a “superstar” lasts only so long. When your “superstar” aura begins to fade, everyone around you questions even the smallest of things and the Church lose faith in you. People begin to look for the next “superstar” to take your place.
In his book Sustainable Youth Ministry, Mark DeVries talks about the Superstar Youth Minister. He says,
Mark goes on to say,
The reality is that Youth Ministers do not have to be superstars to produce superstar results. Even though youth ministers may get the credit, we ultimately have to give credit to where credit is due – Christ. When we begin to think we are the star and the reason for the success of a ministry, we take away from what God is clearly doing and blessing and we start to get into some shady waters. Remember, it is God who works in us and among us. We can’t change hearts – the Lord is the only one who can do that. Again, as I mentioned above, when youth ministers get put into the box of being a superstar, failure is bound to happen and often times the end result is not pretty.
Therefore, youth ministers need to protect themselves from the superstar syndrome. Because we should not, and our churches should not expect us to be “Superstar Youth Ministers”, we need to be mindful of a few key points as we take on a youth ministry job or are currently in one.
Use the honeymoon period to your advantage. When you first start off in a new youth ministry job, there is a period of time in which you can do no wrong. Even if you do wrong, there is a ton of grace given by others. Believe me, I know! I probably should have been fired numerous times from mistakes and errors in judgment I made within this “honeymoon” period. Unfortunately, the honeymoon eventually ends and different results are expected then – which is completely right. Therefore, be mindful of this period and use the grace that is extended to you. BUT make sure you have a strategic plan in place so that you are moving the program in the right direction. If you want help on developing a strategic plan, click here and here. By showing the Church leadership you have a plan in place and that you are moving in a certain direction, that will help their fears or concerns they have about a mistake or 10 you made during the honeymoon period.
Stay teachable. There is a difference between confidence and teachability. If you walk into a new job believing you have the right way and everyone else doesn’t, you may be setting yourself up for a major fallout or coup. OR, If you have a current job and you believe that you have the right way and that everyone else has no idea what they are talking, you are entering a dangerous world. I have seen too many youth ministers walk in and alienate all those who would love to help them. They set apart parents, leadership and students who have invested a lot of time and energy into the program by turning aside their opinions and thoughts all because they feel that they have the right way to do ministry. What ends up happening then is that the Church loses faith in the youth minister, attendance drops and before you know it the Church is looking for a new youth minister.
It is our job always to stay teachable! Of all the ministries out there, Youth Ministry probably changes the most rapidly because youth are changing on a daily basis. Therefore, we cannot expect old methods, ideas or programs to work just because they did in the past. We have to continue to learn! Each Church and ministry is different so every youth minister has to adapt and continue to learn the best way to minister in that particular context. Again, if he/she fails to do that, there will be serious fallout. It is just a matter of when. Stay teachable and learn from all people and circumstances. If we take this mentality, we will benefit, the students will benefit and the health of the program will benefit.
Trust and Rely on the Lord always. The reality is that people will always fail you. God never will. When we trust and rely on the words of our bosses, parents, students, spouses and others and rely less on the Truth of the Lord, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. God never promised us that we will ride off into the sunset and as along as we do His will we will live a great life. That is not how it plays out. But too often our trust and reliance on others supersedes Christ in our lives. We need to cling to Christ always. No matter what someone says about you (good or bad), we cannot allow that to replace our reliance and faith in Christ in our lives. We need to cling to Him and His direction always.
For what it’s worth, Stephen Strasburg went on to win his 1st game. He pitched 7 innings, struck out 14 (a team record), allowed just 2 runs and threw 94 pitches. After 1 start, he has lived up to the expectations. What I am curious about is how he handles his next start or even a rough start? Actually, I’m probably more curious as to how the Nationals handle a rough start. Obviously, Strasburg will have a honeymoon period as the people of Washington, DC are just excited to have him on their team. But what happens if he struggles 1 year? Will they want him out? Will they try to trade him? Probably not because in baseball people know it takes time and 1 bad year doesn’t constitute change.
In Youth Ministry, you may get pumped up to be the “superstar” and that you can or have saved the youth program. Do not buy into the lie. Remain grounded in Christ, trusting Him above all thing to guide and direct you. You may have a bad month, semester or even year. Regardless of that, trust in the Lord and allow Him to direct your path and be patient! God will work you through it. It may not be easy, but He will work you through it.