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There is an epidemic in Youth Ministry that needs to be addressed. A myth exists that is misleading and undermining potential Youth Leaders in our churches and Bible colleges. I’ve witnessed it firsthand as I’ve seen fellow Youth Ministers move from one church to another before the paint even dried in their new home. I’ve heard it in the voices of potential interns from our colleges. And, from time to time, I’ve had to remind myself not to get sucked into its vortex.
The myth I’m referring to? I call it the “Stepping Stone Myth”. It’s not new, and I’m not sure it will ever completely go away, but I hope and pray it does. It takes various forms, and I wonder if you’ve ever been affected by one of them.
1. The REAL ministry myth
I remember a gentleman walking into church one Sunday with his family. As I held the door open for him and his son (who was a student in our youth ministry), he smiled and attempted a joke. He said to his son, “Ask Keith when he’s going to grow up and get a real ministry.” He laughed. I didn’t.
This strain of the Stepping Stone Myth leads us to believe that Youth Ministry is somehow inferior, less important, or less crucial than other ministries. Usually, it sounds like this – “I’m going to serve as a youth guy for a while until I can move up to senior ministry.”
But stay strong, fellow Youth worker. Know that God has called you, equipped you, and given you the opportunity to be on the front lines of ministry. You have the joy of working with students. Do they smell weird? Sure. But they are malleable, pliable, and they WANT to learn. They are making decisions that will drastically shape their lives, and you get to be a part of that. Don’t fall for this myth. God may move you and shape you, and you may end up doing senior ministry. That may be the case in my own life. But don’t get tricked into believing that one ministry is more important than another. To be honest, if you have that mentality, I don’t want to be YOUR Youth Minister.
2. The ANY OTHER CHURCH myth
Have you ever met a fellow Youth Minister who is ALWAYS looking for another ministry and always sending out resumes? I know a few guys like that, and it sends chills up my spine. This strain of the Stepping Stone Myth says that your current church is beyond fixing, and that any other church will be better. This often sounds like, “I don’t know, I just don’t think we are a fit here” or “we just aren’t on the same page.”
Is there a time or season to leave a church? Sure. Are there churches that are unhealthy for you and your family to serve in? Absolutely. But the fact of the matter is that the same problems that exist in your current church will exist in your next church. They may have different faces and different names, but they are there. I promise. The church is full of imperfect people, and people who need to grow in maturity, including you. Why not stick it out and help change your current church from the inside out? Why not be the solution instead of another symptom of the problem?
3. The BIGGER CHURCH IS BETTER myth
Do you ever get church envy? Do you find yourself counting how many students the OTHER church brought to the conference? Is the first question you ask at a Youth Minister meeting, “How many kids do you have in your youth group?” If so, you may be suffering from this strain of the Stepping Stone Myth. It often sounds like this – “I don’t plan on retiring here. I plan to serve here a few years and see where God leads me next.”
What a horrific myth to buy into. How would you feel if your spouse said that about your marriage? So why would you take that approach about the Bride of Christ? But the truth is that plenty of us fall into this trap. We get lured in by large facilities, multi-staff environments, and big budgets. But a bigger ministry doesn’t always mean a more successful ministry. A bigger church doesn’t mean less headaches or difficult people to deal with. And a bigger budget doesn’t always mean better ministry. Remember the truth in 1 Timothy 6:6 – “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Bloom where you are planted.
The Stepping Stone Myth has claimed a lot of victims over the years, but my prayer is that you will not be one of its victims. Give me a Jason Sell (15+ years at Lebanon Christian Church), a Brian Leslie (17+ years at Plainfield Christian Church), or a Ron Bull (20+ years at West Towne Christian Church) any day of the week. May you have a similar legacy.
These are just a few of the variations of the Stepping Stone myth that I have experienced. What variations of this myth do you have to guard yourself against?