Everyone wants to win. That’s just human. We want to be good – or even great – at what we do. How we define that “win” is a very important step in our development as a youth worker.
Whether we’ve done it consciously or not, at almost every church we’ve ever worked for, we try to figure out the “win” for us in that place. In my experience, I’ve always felt there were two options. (1) I could try and come along with what the overall church is trying to do, or (2) I could keep my head down and just try my best to make an awesome youth ministry program. The first option almost always ends up being incredibly hard – if not impossible – due to a lack of unified vision in the church. That leaves option two. It’s tricky to call this option “wrong” since it tends to be incredibly rewarding. I’ve gotten high praise for having tons of kids attending our program. I’ve gotten many slaps on the back and thumbs up for having to order ANOTHER bus for the middle school retreat.
But the choice between those two options is a false one. And many of you reading this think I mean that option two is obviously superficial, and we need to go for option one even though it’s hard. No. BOTH of those things are FAILS and we need to recognize them as such. Neither of those things are your job.
Your job is to help your pastor win. Period.
I’m guessing that some of you are pushing back and saying, “No! My job is to help JESUS win!” And you’re right. That is your job. In fact, that’s every Christian’s job. But as a professional in youth ministry, you accepted a position in a specific church, and that church has leadership. Your job is to help that leadership win. Specifically, your job is to help them win in youth ministry. But that “other duties as assigned” line in your job description, though many times the object of mocking and chagrin, is incredibly legitimate. Why? Because helping our pastor win will require us to do things outside of the youth ministry bubble from time to time.
A little while back, I was golfing with a pastor I worked for years ago and I took the opportunity to share this realization that my job was to have helped him win. I also took the opportunity to apologize for the fact that I didn’t do that when I worked at his church. I fought him. I pushed. I felt like it was my divine calling to help him see all his faults. Thank goodness he was patient and gracious. He dealt with my stupidity and immaturity. We’re still friends to this day. (So technically speaking, he still deals with my stupidity and immaturity.)
Humility in Youth Ministry
Youth ministry has enough stupidity and immaturity. It could use more humility and submission. I have witnessed far too many in our field get this wrong. Their default mental setting is to think that THEIR ideas are the best, and it’s their job to get THEIR ideas done. So many youth workers talk about their work situation as if it’s David and Goliath. Yes, of course, if they are doing something we feel is wrong we should bring it to them. And yes, when things go well we get invited to the table and get to share our ideas and be part of the vision process – but that is not a given. That is earned.
Take some time today to stop and think about a couple things you could do to start supporting your pastor more. If you really want to blow their minds, go ahead and just ask them directly. “What can I do to help you win?” Chances are, they won’t have an answer for you. “Pray for me.” Might be their only immediate response (which, by-the-way, you should be doing). It’s also incredibly possible that your pastor just wants you to choose “option 2” – keep your head down and run great programs for teenagers. So be it. That’s how they want to use you. But in that case, you are doing it at their request – not as an act of defiance waving the “I’ll show them” flag the whole time. But it’s invaluable for them to know that you want to help them win. They need to know that you are their advocate.
Do your job. Help your pastor win.
Jonathan Hobbs is the Director of Youth Ministries at the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, Pennsylvania. He has worked in youth ministry for almost 20 years, including churches in New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania. He has spoken and/or led worship for multiple camps, retreats, and events around the country and has written multiple articles for blogs, newspapers, and magazines. He also co-wrote/edited a book called “Don’t Do This” which is full of stories about failures in youth ministry. (Something he knows a lot about). He is the founder of J3 Youth Ministry (www.j3youthministry.com), and is one of the hosts of the J3 Youth Ministry podcast. He took karate in high school because he thought it would help make him cool. He was wrong. Jonathan and his wife, Carolyn, have two beautiful daughters, Kaylin and Julia. He loves golf, can juggle two balls skillfully, and does a halfway decent impression of Kermit the Frog. He’s also a big fan of the Oxford comma. Follow him on Twitter @JONHOBBSTWEETS.