8 Assumptions Youth Pastors make that are holding Youth Ministry back

August 24, 2012     Frank Gil    

We all do it. Sometimes we do it without thinking about it. We have to be careful because our assumptions can and will shape the way we do ministry and interact with others. We have to be mindful that our assumptions is just a perception of our reality but sometimes it isn’t reality. Take heart of the following:

1. A big youth group is a successful youth group.

A big youth group doesn’t mean that they did a good job being an outlet for the community or are making and equipping productive disciples for the Kingdom. It could just mean that the church is really big and thus a big church means a big youth group. It could just be a matter of statistics. The average youth group is 10% of the congregations size. If a church has a 1000 people going to their church, they will have a youth group of 100. Our15 person youth group might envy those larger ones but, mathematically, since we may only have 150 people going to our church, it makes sense.

2. All big youth groups are shallow.

Heinous! And youth pastors who say this should repent of this terrible accusation. The size of a youth group is not contingent to how awesome their youth room is and how much they watered down their message. Sure, there may big youth groups who only attract kids with a flashy youth room and iPad giveaways, but as the motto I run with goes, ‘what you bring them in with, is how you have to keep them”. However, there has been a surge of youth pastors who are jaded with the flashy youth ministry model and are just getting down to business with the Word and kids are staying and bringing their friends. Be careful when you call out a larger youth group because it might just be your envy speaking and not the  facts of their ministry.

3. Small youth groups are failures.

A win and a fail is hard to always determine based on numbers. Would you rather have 50 kids come to your youth group who show up that are unengaged and are just there because their parents make them? Or 15 kids who love Jesus and are recklessly learning more about Him and are sharing the good news?  Small numbers is not a tangible guide on success. Longevity and quality of disciples is a better marker of a win in ministry.

4. If I had a bigger budget my ministry would be so much better.

Coming from a youth group with a small youth budget, I have learned ways to make a dollar stretch. Obviously money doesn’t buy you happiness but it sure can help with the cost of ministry. However, some of us wouldn’t know what to do with a big budget. If you have a small budget or no budget, do with what you have. Don’t buy curriculum, make your own curriculum. Car pool instead of renting a 15 passenger. Do a mission trip in your city that you plan versus going to another country. There is nothing wrong with having a bigger budget or even trying to ask for a larger budget. However, money doesn’t make your ministry better. It just gives your ministry more accessories.

5. My wife must be the minister to the girls.

This is something that probably will take more than a paragraph to discuss. Before I proposed to my now wife, I sat her down and asked her if she sees herself being a pastor’s wife. The expectations from other women is for her to always be serving at every church function. Would she be ready, if last minute I called and said , “I am on my way home with 5 youth guys. Can you make dinner?”. The mentality and stereotype is that she would be a “she-plays-piano-during-worship” wife. Well, my wife plays keyboard in our worship team. She is there every Sunday and Wednesday and she leads a small group of girls in a Bible study. However, none of this is expected of  her. Her only responsibility as a pastor’s wife is to love and support me and raise our kids in the Lord. Anything and everything outside of that is out of her own desire. I could have a female volunteer do what she does and she would be fine with that, but my wife delights and wants to serve in extra ways and I support her in that.

6. I need to make the ministry look like a big youth group to make it become a big youth group.

Perception is reality. If your youth group has a huge social media presence, hundreds of videos on Youtube, and you make shirts for every event you do, everyone may think you are bigger than you really are and that may seem attractive to them. However, it may do nothing at all. There is nothing wrong with having a great social media presence, a youth website, an app, and a t shirt for every season of ministry, but remember that social media, apps and shirts won’t impress kids as much as a youth pastor who actually cares about them and is willing to spend time doing life with them. There is much more value in that.

7. The student’s failures are the parent’s fault.

It is easy to blame parents for the failures of the kids. “If they only cared as much as I cared, their kid wouldn’t be like that.” “If their dad would actually spend time with his son…” “If the mom taught her daughter values she wouldn’t…” These accusations are really easy to blame but sometimes this isn’t really the parent’s fault. Some of these kids spend 8 hours a day in a godless school with peers that could care less about their holiness. Sometimes, depraved kids do depraved things. Good parents can have bad kids and this isn’t a reflection on their parenting but on the kids’ sinful hearts. Turn the blame game around from the parents and focus on the student’s heart.

8. You have to be cool in order for your students to like you.

If there was any great lie, it is probably this. I am too big for tight jeans, too cheap for a $60 video game, and too educated to use the word “swag” in my consistent vocabulary. Kids don’t want a cool youth pastor, what they want is someone who is real. I have seen nerdy white suburban guys minister to 25 urban youth and the youth wanted more. Authenticity is greater than being cool. Be relevant and contextualize but be yourself.

What are other things we shouldn’t assume in youth ministry?

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Comments

0 thoughts on “8 Assumptions Youth Pastors make that are holding Youth Ministry back”

  1. Nick Farr

    Frank, you really hit the nail on the head! Great post bro! I think every youth pastor deals with these lies at one point or another. You’re right, when we buy into these sayings of satan, it holds us back from the refreshment the Holy Spirit brings.

    As a former youth pastor of a mega church, with a mega budget, worship center, etc, I can tell you this: We always wanted more money. We always wanted to tweak the student worship center. You’re ministry needs to stand with/without money. Money can make things easier, but it doesn’t solve foundational issues.

  2. Nick Farr

    Frank, you really hit the nail on the head! Great post bro! I think every youth pastor deals with these lies at one point or another. You’re right, when we buy into these sayings of satan, it holds us back from the refreshment the Holy Spirit brings.

    As a former youth pastor of a mega church, with a mega budget, worship center, etc, I can tell you this: We always wanted more money. We always wanted to tweak the student worship center. You’re ministry needs to stand with/without money. Money can make things easier, but it doesn’t solve foundational issues.

  3. Aaron Thompson

    In his most recent leadership podcast, Andy Stanley touched on something that I think relates to the bigger/more/wealthier dynamic. He said that as leaders, we’re usually obsessed with what comes next, and we have a harder time see what is here now. He advocated that rather than setting “goals” which always drive us to be “improving” something, leaders have a preferred picture of their ministry.

    What’s great about this is that it allows leaders to lead toward something and then simply continue in it when they get there. It was refreshing to hear someone at Stanley’s level talk about sustainability.

    Our American cultural obsession with bigger/better can be a real problem in ministry. And as Nick points out, it never turns off. Even when you get to “bigger and better” you still want to go bigger and better yet.

    I also wonder if our obsession with the short-term results of our ministries – conversions, baptisms, attendance, etc. – will wain as books like Sticky Faith and others become more prominent. I know that in my early days of ministry, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake the numbers game. But these days I find myself instinctively judging on the basis of long-term participation, practicing core values, leadership health, etc. I suppose I’ve come to believe that if we do things that help students build a lifelong faith, then attendance will take care of itself.

  4. Aaron Thompson

    In his most recent leadership podcast, Andy Stanley touched on something that I think relates to the bigger/more/wealthier dynamic. He said that as leaders, we’re usually obsessed with what comes next, and we have a harder time see what is here now. He advocated that rather than setting “goals” which always drive us to be “improving” something, leaders have a preferred picture of their ministry.

    What’s great about this is that it allows leaders to lead toward something and then simply continue in it when they get there. It was refreshing to hear someone at Stanley’s level talk about sustainability.

    Our American cultural obsession with bigger/better can be a real problem in ministry. And as Nick points out, it never turns off. Even when you get to “bigger and better” you still want to go bigger and better yet.

    I also wonder if our obsession with the short-term results of our ministries – conversions, baptisms, attendance, etc. – will wain as books like Sticky Faith and others become more prominent. I know that in my early days of ministry, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake the numbers game. But these days I find myself instinctively judging on the basis of long-term participation, practicing core values, leadership health, etc. I suppose I’ve come to believe that if we do things that help students build a lifelong faith, then attendance will take care of itself.

  5. Keith Parker

    Great thoughts, Frank. Amazing how universal many of these lies have become. The stereotypes and name-calling are often birthed from our own insecurities and envy, and not rooted in “Kingdom vision.” I’ve always wondered – if my youth group is awesome, and another youth group isn’t awesome, does that mean I win? Seems to me that we are on the same team, and we should be praying for, moving towards, and actively pursuing success for EVERY youth group. Wouldn’t the Kingdom reach more students, then? Nah, that will never work:)

  6. Keith Parker

    Great thoughts, Frank. Amazing how universal many of these lies have become. The stereotypes and name-calling are often birthed from our own insecurities and envy, and not rooted in “Kingdom vision.” I’ve always wondered – if my youth group is awesome, and another youth group isn’t awesome, does that mean I win? Seems to me that we are on the same team, and we should be praying for, moving towards, and actively pursuing success for EVERY youth group. Wouldn’t the Kingdom reach more students, then? Nah, that will never work:)

  7. Pingback: August 27, 2012 |
  8. Jeff Boose

    Great post, Frank! I really identify with your comments on the size of a youth group. Unfortunately, in my experience, the drive for numerical success was lead by the Sr. Pastor…nothing else mattered. Not the fact that we had more salvations and baptisms in a year that the rest of the church combined, not that students were starting to lead out in their schools and start prayer groups, not that I was developing a close network with two other YP’s in the area and combining our efforts to reach students – The size of the youth ministry is all that mattered.

    What that does is train a generation of YP’s who think numbers are what’s important, and they intern train future leaders to believe the same thing. I am grateful to be out of that toxic environment, but my heart hurts for those who are still in it.

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