Articles | Leadership

Kurt Johnston has been a youth pastor since 1988 and currently leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. Widely regarded as one of the most trusted voices in youth ministry, Kurt loves to encourage other youth workers and has written and created over 50 books and resources with that goal in mind. In his free time, Kurt enjoys surfing and riding dirt bikes in the desert with his wife and two children.

In this little series we’re taking a look at what I call ministerial intelligence; the level of mastery one has over the three key components of ministry work. The higher one’s ministerial intelligence, the more likely he/she will find success and enjoyment in a ministry setting over a long period of time.

Ministerial Intelligence involves three key ministry arenas:

1)     THE PLACE: The ability to understand and navigate the nuances of your particular organization.

2)     THE PRACTICES: Proficiency at the various “practices” of youth ministry; the stuff we do.

Invite teenagers into an epic adventure with Jesus. Check out Pierced: The New Testament today!

3)     THE PEOPLE: The ability to develop people, win the trust of people etc.

Today let’s take a look at “The Place.”

Having a high ministerial intelligence in “The Place”  is a key part of ministerial intelligence (In fact, I would argue it is the most important of the three components). I chose the words in my definitions carefully, and I’ll use them to expound on each.

“The ability to understand and navigate the nuances of your particular organization”

Every organization is unique. It may be the same size and denomination and reaching the same demographic as the church across town, but it would be a mistake to assume that there is much in common between the two. Sure, they both have worship bands instead of choirs, mandate that you become a member of the church before serving in ministry, have a well respected ministry to children and a lead pastor who can preach with the best of ‘em. But it would be a mistake to assume there is much in common between the two! Because every organization is unique; especially when you scratch below the surface. Especially when you begin to spend prolonged hours as part of it.

You need to understand the nuances of your organization.  How easily can you answer the following questions about your organization?

–        What are the “unwritten rules”?

–        How is success measured?

–        What things shape perception the most?

–        Who are the key stakeholders? How much power/authority do they hold?

–        What’s the email/communication/availability culture?

–        As a whole, how quickly does the organization move when change is needed?

–        What are the biggest unforgiveable sins? What will get you fired right away and what won’t result in firing, but will be “held onto” by stakeholders?

You need to navigate these nuances! I’ve learned that lots and lots of people don’t understand the nuances, which makes sense if you haven’t ever thought about the important role they play in your chances of longevity. But I’m shocked at how many (usually younger, either naïve or arrogant, leaders) people do, in fact, understand them but choose to ignore them anyway! The reasoning is usually something along the lines of, “Yeah, but I’m gonna change things!” (No, you’re not.) or, “I’m not into church politics!” (Well, you should be.). Unless you are the LeBron James of youth ministry, your organization expects you to bend to it, not the other way around. And even if you are the LeBron James of youth ministry, it will eventually get tired of you if you think you are somehow above the “rules” of the game.

And when that happens…they may ask you to take your talents to South Beach.

How service-minded are your teenagers? Take this short quiz to find out!

Leave a Comment

Please keep in mind that comments are moderated and rel="nofollow" is in use. So, please do not use a spammy keyword or a domain as your name, or it will be deleted. Let us have a personal and meaningful conversation instead.