Simply Insider

Shawn is a pastor and speaker passionate about Jesus and people. He is also the author of "Ministering to Gay Teenagers." Shawn lives with his family in Ohio, where he helps pastor CMA Church.

Yesterday, my friend Leneita Fix, posted about a series we’re doing on issues we as youth workers deal with, but are shy from talking about. After looking at the game debate, I want to chat about fame.

I’ll be the first to admit, one of my secret temptations that I willingly entertain is fame.

I have been involved with youth ministry since 1998. Connecting with students from the popular to the marginalized comes naturally for me. I know what it takes for youth ministry to “work.” I’ve read all the popular books and I’ve attended the conferences. I have never had problem finding a church position, either, that is of course until I graduated from college in 2009.

With my degree in hand, I thought I would finally be unstoppable. Not only did I feel overly equipped for ministry, but I also felt I was enough of an expert in ministry that it was due time for my voice to be heard, especially within youth ministry circles. I had something to say and teach, and I was eager to be one of those youth pastors – you know, the next Fields, Johnson, or Yaconelli.

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During my last semester of college, the positions I thought were lined up for me to move into were suddenly not available. No worries, I thought, I can find a church position easily. And so I began looking. One month turned into sixteen months. While the time was painfully stretching, it proved to be a very profitable journey for me.

Through those sixteen months, God opened my eyes to a lot of things about myself, and about what it meant to have Him in first place.

I wanted so much to be a great youth pastor that I ignored why I was called to youth ministry. I wasted so much time fantasizing about my “future fame,” and neglected what was happening in the here and now. During those sixteen months, God was bringing me to a point of surrendering my deep desire to be famous, to be “the guy.” He would say to me, “I created you to be you. Stop trying to be someone you’re never going to be.” God exposed the confidence in myself for what it truly was.

For some of us, this is a real struggle within our hearts. We want our voice to be heard and known. We want our idea to be used and valued by others. We want to have the youth group everyone looks to as an example.

However, God won’t use someone who is holding up something other than His name.

The fame we seek after is only but a second compared to what God wants to do through us in the ordinary. What is popular today isn’t guaranteed popularity tomorrow. The only constant is Jesus. And though we may all proclaim, “Well, yeah, it’s all about Jesus,” let’s be honest and admit we add to that sentence at times, “and about what I can teach others.”

Some of the greatest things in youth ministry happen in the smallest of places. Some of the greatest ideas and input comes from ordinary youth workers doing every day, ordinary ministry.

Everything I have been able to do and be a part of is because of God’s grace. Without Him, I would not be the person I am today. I can honestly say, from a pure heart that continues to be refined, I seek after and desire no other fame than that of Jesus Christ. That may sound cheesy, but this is the only posture from which “famous” youth workers serve.

What do you think, am I off base here?
Has God brought to your attention an area He wants to deal with?

With you and for you,



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  • Brian Seidel says:

    Shawn, I have only had a few online interactions with you, but from what I have observed and read from you I have seen that this truly is your heart. Thanks for your honest thoughts and challenging words.

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