The Practice Game_ Part 1

Put Me In Coach... Im Ready to Play

Do you recall this catchy kid's tune? It has too often become the resounding theme of many youth ministers (or so called) of our churches today. Youth ministry has been used as a stepping stone until “real ministry” happens. It’s like a transitional time until the person can become a “real” pastor. I call it, “The Practice Game” mentality. IF THAT IS YOUR GOAL, THEN YOU ARE NOT A YOUTH PASTOR. Skip it and give the youth the privilege of having someone work in their lives because they have a passion for it, not as a rung in their ladder to success.

One of the reasons that youth ministries struggle so much with leadership and consistency is because so many youth pastors walk away from youth ministry in their early thirties taking years of experience with them. The misconception is that if you are going to be a youth pastor you have to be young but youth ministry is not restricted by age. I have met some fantastic youth pastors in their 40’s and 50’s and some young youth pastors that didn’t have a clue. I place myself in this last category often... having no clue, but extremely thankful for the mentors in my life that do.

If you are just starting out in youth ministry, find a couple of youth pastors that have been serving for years and connect with them. Your drive and willingness to take risks as a young person is an amazing asset to the youth ministry you are working with. The wisdom of veterans will be a great asset and balance to you. I have often called upon my mentors in great times of distress, discouragement, and confusion. I implore each young or old, new and experienced minister of students to seek out mentors and elders for your “corner”. If you have been in youth ministry for a while you should take an inventory of those around you. Are there any people that you have mentored? Are you connected with the next generation of leaders? If not you should reevaluate your core ministry goal. Why are you doing this?

Establish an Identity.

One of the most important, if not the most important thing for a teen and/or young adult is identity. A foundational part of developing a solid and vibrant youth ministry is to create an identity for your youth group. This can be tricky because we have bought into the idea that youth ministry is basically about slick marketing and advertising savvy.

If you hire somebody to design a good logo, or come up with a catchy name you have not developed identity. You have developed a brand.

Branding is good and it can be important, but it’s not the same thing as identity. Kids don’t wear a certain brand because of the name or the logo, they wear it because it means something, and something they can and/or are willing to “identify” with. The brand and logo are secondary to this more important concept: What does your youth ministry “mean”?

Define the ministry not in terms of cool graphics, catchy slogans or nifty logos, but in terms of purpose, value, cultural significance, and community. Is what the name and brand embody big enough? If you boil it all down is their something significant about what your youth ministry is doing other than creating an audience for you to speak to or a large number of teens gathered for bragging rights by you or the congregation you’re a part of?

What difference would it make in his/her life or world if a teen decided to buy into your concept? It’s got to be about more than coming to your church. If Christianity is about going to church it’s not about much.

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