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About a year and a half ago, someone got me a subscription to Reader’s Digest. Though I admit I don’t read every article from cover to cover, there is one article I always enjoy reading. Each month, they do a feature entitled “13 Things Your (fill in the blank with mechanic, doctor, accountant, pilot) Won’t Tell You.” I always enjoy reading the funny and interesting things that I would never hear from these people I rely on. So, that is what has inspired this most recent blog post. The following are things you will probably never hear from your Youth Minister, but they may be enlightening. These may not be universal, but probably hit the majority of Youth Ministers.
1. Youth Ministry ain’t about pizza and lock-ins. These are tools that we use to bring students in, but Youth Ministry is not built on these things. Most Youth Ministers spend hours crafting their lessons and sermons, and many times, students have incredibly tough theological questions that demand an answer. You might be surprised to know how deep your church’s Youth Ministry really is!
2. We may NOT want you to serve in our ministries. We get approached all the time by people wanting to “plug in ” with our ministry. Many times it’s parents who want to follow their students up, and sometimes it is people who think it seems fun. The truth is that we are extremely picky about who we bring on to the team. If we aren’t comfortable, don’t know you well, or think that you might not be a good fit, we probably won’t pursue you, despite your interest. And parents, sometimes having you around hinders your student more than it helps.
3. That weekend retreat that you think costs too much probably costs way more than we are charging. Our church loses money on EVERY retreat – every single one. Our summer events cost upwards of $300 to simply register a student – we charge $235. We budget money for each event so that we can charge your student less. Our hope is to keep costs low so that students won’t be hindered from going on trips because of finances. Bottom line – we want your student to attend these life-changing events.
4. Your joke about us being the “junior minister” on staff is not original or funny, and it’s not helping our credibility with your student. Every Youth Minister has heard this joke at some point. There is nothing original about picking on the Youth Guy. More importantly, what does this teach your student about the importance of the Youth Ministry? Is your student going to be eager to attend if you communicate that it doesn’t matter?
5. Teaching your student about Christ and His Word is YOUR responsibility more than ours. If your student is REALLY involved, we see them 3-4 hours a week. You see them every day, for hours on end. And studies show that parents are still the most important influence in a teen’s life, particularly on huge issues like spirituality. We can supplement the great job you are doing in your home, but you are the first line of defense. And, unfortunately, if you drop the ball, it’s really hard for us to undo the damage in a few hours a week. Take this seriously, parents.
6. If you are searching for the best T-shirt guy for your softball league, just ask. Chances are we have used every local guy at some point. We can tell you pricing, minimum orders, and strengths and weaknesses. We might save you a lot of time and phone calls.
7. We are busier than you think. You might think we only work on Sundays. You are wrong. On average, we are probably putting in 60-80 hours a week, and more if we have a retreat or weekend event. Meetings, hospital calls, planning, networking with other ministers, visiting the schools, attending sporting events, texting students, replying to emails and Facebook messages, conversing with parents, counseling sessions, and updating the youth website are just a few things your Youth Minister does in his “spare time.”
8. There are times we HAVE to ignore your call to put our family first. We are busy, and don’t always get the chance to unplug and just be with our families. So, when we get that chance, more than likely your call is going to be ignored. It’s not personal or rude; it’s necessary so that we can focus on our most important ministry with our families. And calling on our day off is a great way to get our voicemail. Let’s talk later.
9. If we call you and say, “We need to talk about your student,” you should probably listen. We love to talk with parents and tell them the great things we are seeing in the life of their student. But there are a lot of times when students are struggling, misbehaving, or heading down a wrong path. As a partner with you in ministry, it’s important for us to talk with you in these moments. If we call you out of the blue with a serious tone, you probably need to listen closely, and you may want to sit down.
10. Students today are dealing with a lot of really tough stuff. I am constantly blown away by the pressures of being a teen in today’s society. In your day, there was peer pressure to drink, smoke, fool around with your guy or gal, maybe do drugs. Today, you can add the pressure to send naked pictures to your casual friend, pornography at your fingertips (parents, please tell me that you know porn access via cell phone is rapidly increasing), gender identity questions, bullying, and more. If you want to know what students are dealing with just for reference, come speak with us. We can be a resource.
11. Your student CAN be wrong. We’re probably not lying to you about what they did on the retreat as some sort of intricate revenge scheme. I’m not sure when parents started believing that their students were perfect, but I’m not a fan. If I had a teacher tell my mom and dad about my misbehavior, it was me versus all of them. Nowadays, it seems to be parent and student versus mentor. Parents, your student can be wrong. We have better things to do with our time than cook up some ridiculous scheme to get your student in trouble. Listen, you might learn something.
12. When you call to ask us when the bus leaves or the event begins, we want to pummel you. For an average retreat, I have already published the details on the registration info you filled out, on Facebook, on our youth website, on Twitter, in the bulletin, in the second letter I sent you with the final reminders, in the Ministry Magazine from that quarter, on the bathroom stalls (just kidding), and so forth. Seriously, take two seconds to look for it and save us the time and frustration of answering a question we have already answered.
13. Registration deadlines DO matter. Often, we have to register for the event by a certain date or pay a major penalty for being late. So, when you are late, you make it hard for us to register, to secure the proper amount of lodging, to know how many busses and bus drivers we need, and you can also cost the church more money. We give plenty of time for your student to register (normally over a month of lead time), so help us out by honoring the deadline. It would make our day!
Youth Ministers, what things would you want to tell the parents in your ministry?