Bad Judgment, Detached Retinas, and a Lot of Stupid

By Brock Morgan Posted on August 24 2010


I remember when I was 18-years-old and it first dawned upon me, “If I become a youth pastor, I’ll get to play dodge-ball for the rest of my life!” That was twenty years ago and I’m still in youth ministry and loving it. The past few summers we’ve had students visit us who were a part of our ministry over those twenty-some years, and each time, inevitably, the stories start coming. The stories of God working are my favorite, but the students seem to like telling and retelling the times that I made a fool of myself or the times I got in trouble. I just sit there cringing and think, “Man, was I stupid!”

I was 23-years-old and in my first full-time ministry position. My intern, and fellow driver, was my best friend from elementary school. We were heading out of L.A. and began racing through traffic, trying to beat each other to the condos we had rented for the weekend. Not only was this dangerous, but we had a mom following us (and my wife was sitting in the van with her). I remember “mom” making us pull off to the side of the road and yelling at us in front of all of the students. Thanks to “mom” (you know who you are) for that much needed lecture, but talk about humiliating.

Then there was the time I had one of our volunteers hide in the false ceiling of the youth room with a fire extinguisher full of water. With a loud crash, he dropped out of the sky, made a perfect landing on the stage, and hosed everyone down. We found out later that one of the students had to be rushed to the doctor for fear of a detached retina. He had been squirted in the eyeball at point-blank range. Oops.

Or how about my first parents meeting? I spoke to a room full of amazing parents who sat there listening to me go on and on as if I knew, at 23, how to parent teenagers. I remember this gracious mom coming up to me afterwards and saying, “Brock, you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about!” The funny thing is, I didn’t. I had never raised a child, and I had never lived full-time with a 13-year-old. As the parent of a teen now, I am a much better youth worker.

I remember one year I went to the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention and heard Tony Campolo use the “S” word. I thought he was so cool, so I decided to pull that one out for our youth group back home. Let me just say this: 12 and 13-year-olds tell their parents everything we youth workers do—especially if it will shock their parents. Campolo was much more effective than I was. The next day my pastor called me in for a meeting that was a huge wake up call.

But the one story that takes the cake was when I was asked to speak at a local Christian high school. The topic they wanted me to speak on was “personal responsibility.” Maybe you already got this, but “personal responsibility” hasn’t always been my strong suit. So, my wife and I headed out to this school that I had never been to, with directions written on a napkin by a 15-year-old student. Needless to say, we got lost. With about ten minutes left until I was supposed to speak, and knowing that we were a good twenty minutes away, I started to speed. I remember my wife saying, “Brock, if you get a ticket, I am going to kill you.” My response was, “Baby, we’re fine. There’s no way I’ll get a ticket.” Then, to my surprise, flashing lights were in the rear view mirror and a siren was blasting behind the car. We pulled over and the police officer walked up to my wife’s side of the car, so she rolled down her window. He pointed at me and said, “Get out of the car buddy, you’re going to jail! We’ve been chasing you for ten minutes on both sides of the freeway and you’re in big trouble.” My wife started crying, and not just little tears. She was balling her eyes out, and furious to boot. I got out of the car and the officer reached for his handcuffs. In a shaky voice I said, “Sir, please don’t arrest me. I’m a youth pastor and I’m supposed to speak at a Christian school down the road on ‘personal responsibility.’ Please don’t take me to jail. PLEASE!” God was with me that day, my friends. He paused for a second, put his cuffs away, and said, “Get back in your car.” My wife took one look at me and with evil in her eyes, slugged me right in the gut. The officer wrote me a ticket and gave me directions to the school. I walked in, still shaking, as the worship band finished their last song. I got on the stage and talked about the importance of being responsible, with a great analogy, I might add. How ironic.

I am one of those youth workers who has had to learn the hard way. But I can tell you this, I love students and I love seeing Jesus change their lives. I’ve just found I need to get out of the way a bit and let him have his way with them. And if God can use me, he can use anyone. 


Picture of Kelsey Morgan

From Kelsey Morgan on August 24, 2010

All true. Take it from me.

Picture of Joe Iovino

From Joe Iovino on August 26, 2010

I cannot tell you how much I dislike it when youth leaders brag about who has done the stupidest thing. I would hope that there would be some repentance in here somewhere, and quite frankly I’m not hearing it. Brock, I’m sure you are a great youth leader who has shared Jesus with many youth over the years, but you should be deeply embarrassed by these stories. Please, fellow youth pastors, recognize that these are not cute stories, but are things to learn from about what NOT to do.

Picture of James Halfhill

From James Halfhill on August 26, 2010

Brock, thanks for sharing. I’m certain that your point wasn’t to brag about some dumb things that at some point all of us veteran youth pastor’s have done. It’s to encourage us to be responsible for our actions and to think through the ideas we have.

There are a lot of young youth pastors and even some of us not so young ones that need to be reminded that we have been entrusted with the care of other peoples most precious treasures. Thanks for making me laugh a bit and remember to continue to be smart about the things we do!

Picture of Heather Rey

From Heather Rey on August 27, 2010

Thank you so much for the laughs.  I am the mom of five, and have been a youth director for the past 14 years and, while (mostly because I’m a mom) I don’t have too many stories about “things that seemed like a good idea at the time,” I DO have way too many stories about what happened when something went “wrong” on a mission trip, a retreat or a night where I had everything “all planned out.”  It’s funny how MY plans never included half the group contracting poison sumac, trips to the ER, somebody getting their hand stuck in the contraption that holds your dry cleaning hangers in my car, or chaperones that like to explain bodily functions in detail, but how humbling all those experiences can be when GOD has taught our whole group lessons through these experiences.  I absolutely LOVED the last line in your article and find myself thinking that so often,” if God can use me, he can use anyone.”  Thank you!

Picture of Ben

From Ben on August 30, 2010


I think you might want to read back over the post. Before he even shared a story, he said he thought, “Man, was I stupid”. After the speeding story, he acknowledged getting a “much needed lecture”. After his parent lecture, he noted that he didn’t really know what he was talking about. I never got the impression that he desired to show off…actually, I got the opposite.

Picture of Mark

From Mark on September 03, 2010

I thank God I’m not, nor ever was, in your youth group.  I’m guessing that wearing jeans and playing cards are inappropriate in your book also.

Embarrassed?  Try seeing the humor.  No one died!

Picture of Craig Adams

From Craig Adams on September 03, 2010

@Joe Iovino…stop being a ninkampoop…thanks

Picture of David Brown

From David Brown on September 20, 2010

well dang. joe, i do happen to disagree with your opinion. i dont think he was in any way trying to brag. however, why are the rest of you jumping on his case for sharing his opinion? geez. pretty sure thats not how were supposed to handle those situations. if you disagree, then disagree, make your point, and move on. but dont antaganize him. you that guy Jesus that were supposed to follow? pretty sure thats not how he would have responded.

Picture of Talei Varea

From Talei Varea on September 21, 2010

I enjoyed reading your story Brock. A few years ago I was asked to lead a youth group part-time and boy, did I get the shock of my life. Being a mother to 2 teenage boys and four more between 9-2years I thought I knew it all. Those three years were some of the best years of my life and I will never forget them. And it is true that “if God can use me, He can use anyone”! Thank you for God for people like Brock!

Picture of Pastor D

From Pastor D on September 28, 2010

yea . . I can relate to a lot of those. Especially speaking to a room of parents “thinking” you know what you’re talking about. Thanks for sharing, it’s good to know that others have done some stupid things . . it’s not just me!

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