You pull your car through the overhead door, stay seated, simply roll down the window and answer a couple quick questions. In 15 minutes or less, your oil is changed and you are back on the road with a cool little sticker on your window reminding you to come back when it is time.
It doesn’t matter how far over you are on the old 3 months or 3,000 miles rule. They don’t ask what kind of crazy racecar driving you have been doing. They don’t care why you are not doing it yourself or judge you— they just go to work. They are like the tagline says a “well-oiled machine” that keeps your machine well-oiled too.
Why do we go to Jiffy Lube and its various competitors? We go because we don’t want to get dirty. We go because it is quick and convenient. We go because we don’t want to do the work ourselves. It is not because we don’t know how to do it or couldn’t easily learn. My dad taught me how to change my oil and check my fluids. He imparted all kinds of helpful advice when I turned 16 about how to keep my car running right. I quickly discovered though with a very fast trip and a couple dollars someone else could do it all for me… no mess, no fuss, no scraped up knuckles, and no laying on the hard-cold driveway.
It occurred to me the other day as I was talking to yet another set of parents about how I should fix their child that sometimes we become the “spiritual jiffy lube guy (*or gals).” We are the quick, convenient place and person to fix their child when things start “running a little rough” at home, relationships start “gumming up” or the spiritual things at home are just not getting the same “mileage.” They don’t want to do the hard work themselves, get under the hood and get dirty. Instead, they stop by when it’s convenient in their schedules for a quick fix and spiritual tune up. I think it’s time we put a stop to this or at least slow down the traffic!
5 Things to keep you from becoming a Jiffy Lube Ministry:
1. 3000 Mile Check-Up.
You know you have done it, peeled the reminder sticker off the window before you pulled into the parking lot of the oil change place. You were embarrassed at how long it had been since your last oil change and how far over the 3,000 miles you have driven.
The same thing happens with your students and parents. They pretend like they have been around and that you didn’t notice they haven’t been to church in 3 months. Surprise! They are back and looking for a “quick fix” of Jesus to make it all better. A simple observation in my years working with students: if they are not here for a few weeks, they are struggling or will be struggling soon! Human, sinful nature is if you are struggling or living in sin you run away from God (and church), not to Him (*see the story of Adam and Eve).
We need to start watching and be aware when students and families are not around and their attendance is slipping. People want to know you notice when they are not there and they love to be missed, so give a quick contact. You will gain, not lose when you do. You and your ministry need to be reaching out and reaching into lives before it’s too late. Find a way to track attendance or keep track of who has not been around.
2. Teaching the At-Home Oil Change.
Just like my dad taught me, we need to teach “at home” maintenance. Step #2 in the process is teaching parents and students how to live the Christian life outside of Sunday morning and your youth ministry. Teach them how to address and face the issues of life on their own. As a youth pastor, we love to be needed but we need to be constantly trying to “work ourselves out of a job.” It probably will never happen, but we need to seek to give parents the tools to do the hard work of spiritual discipleship for themselves. No more, quick drop off, “you fix my kid for me,” I will be back in an hour. The simple fact is we are only around for a couple years of a student’s life at best, their parents are their parents for a lifetime. They need to be doing the hard work for the long haul, way beyond our time.
3. High-Performance Oil.
You know the stuff, the high-test oil they always offer when you first pull in the Jiffy Lube. For a few bucks more you can have the scientist tested super supreme of oils. Instead of just getting the generic cheap stuff you can have the brand-name that the race car drivers use.
How about us, do we offer the best of the best stuff straight up with no option, when it comes to our ministries? Let’s bring the best of the best of the scriptures to them. No cheap tricks and fillers, but rather fill our student’s tanks with the high-quality stuff that is going to keep their spiritual life running at top performance. Especially in the middle school years, we need to choose to do more than “children’s ministry plus,” but real TRUE 6th-8th grade specifically formulated lessons and study.
4. Warning Light.
You know the warning lights of your students, and you also know that students and parents who won’t come in until they absolutely must. Just like my bus driver at my last church a few years ago, who ran the bus without oil in it, even though the warning lights were on. He ran it until the engine literally exploded.
Our students and parent, like a good driver, should be taught what the warning lights are and what they might mean. We as leaders will save ourselves so much work as well. We need to stop wimping out on addressing issues, start calling sin, “sin,” and be willing to “speak the truth in love.” Honestly, who cares if it’s another pastor’s kid or a leader’s daughter. We need to yank the emergency brake and pull them over to the side (literally!). It is not easy and you will get the “how dare you!” but it is well worth it in the long run.
5. The Shop is Closed.
Jiffy Lube does not fix your brakes or do tires. You cannot pull in and expect in 15 minutes or less that they will replace a blown engine or even change all your tires, pit crew style. They do one thing and one thing well!
We need to start refusing to be the quick fix for students and parents. One quick counseling session or 2 weeks’ worth of showing up for church will not fix all the problems. It is not the truth and we can’t enable people to believe that it is. You know as well as I do the Christian road is every day, all day and it is hard work. It is constant maintenance, upkeep, and being aware of the troubles that we all face. It’s about time we say, “Nope, sorry the shop is closed.”
We are available when people need us of course. We are always willing to listen and help, but also it is time that we make it known that when they come to us they are committing to a real, long-term solution for the road ahead.
We need to let the students and families we are ministering to know that there is not Jiffy Lube for the spiritual life!
DAN ISTVANIK is the 5th to 8th-grade pastor at Victory Church in Lancaster, PA. He has been working in youth ministry for over 20 years serving churches in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Virginia. Besides serving in the local church setting he is also the youth ministry content writer for Parent Ministry.Net, along with being a contributor to a variety of other great youth ministry resources like Youthworker Journal, Group Magazine, Download Youth Ministry, and more. Additional he shares daily Jr. high/middle school ministry specific resources, and hints on his own blog “The Middle Years” at: WWW.MIDDLEYEARSMINISTRY.COM