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4 ‘Suggestions’ From Your Ministry Drill Sergeant

For many years the longtime column I wrote for GROUP Magazine was titled “The Youth Ministry Drill Sergeant”—I guess I have the sort of opinions that fit best in a boot-camp setting.

Translation: I’m very direct when I have something to say. I think it’s because I have a complete lack of empathy and I like to yell a lot…

So here’s my drill-sergeant take on some youth ministry hot topics as we look over the horizon into a new year. I’m yelling at myself as much as I’m yelling at you…

1. Stop talking crap about senior leadership.

It’s hard to resist the temptation to play armchair quarterback when the game isn’t going the way we’d like. But it’s important to remember that leading a church is a tough job. Exodus 17 tells a story of a weary leader who, at his worst, was losing. Of course it was easier for his “lieutenants” to drag him down than lift him up. Some leaders just beg for our criticism. They don’t understand our role. Maybe they don’t even know Jesus. But listen—if we’re having conversations about them, it should only be with Jesus and only about how we can help them win.

2. Show better appreciation for the plight of parents.

If you don’t know it by now, let me enlighten you—raising teenagers is (literally) a thankless job, kind of like youth ministry. Five minutes ago their kids loved and adored them; now they’ll listen to everyone on earth BUT them. And the leaders the church has hired to help rarely speak to them unless they’re asking for money or permission slips. Appreciating the plight of parents is a mercy they’re rarely given. They need a champion—let’s try that.

3. Stop the clock-watching.

Do you know how many hours you worked this week? Sadly, I do. I’m right now studying the time I spend on my responsibilities to make sure I’m maximizing my effectiveness. It’s led to a disgusting self-discovery—sometimes I watch the clock more than I watch my calling. Ministry doesn’t always fit neatly into a 40-hour week. I’m not suggesting an unhealthy workaholic mentality; I’m saying a time card doesn’t get the last word on our workweek. Let’s try something new. What about measuring our work by Kingdom influence over calendar impact? If it takes more than a standard workweek, so be it.

4. Let’s try giving our family the “first fruits” of our energies.

I go a hundred miles an hour at church. I don’t waste a lot of time. Thinking, praying, and moving occupy all of my hours there. Families in crisis and problems to be solved are the standard. So I’m spent when I get home. I like that feeling of accomplishment. Sometimes, though, it leaves me emotionally depleted. The unintended outcome is usually one of two things: a premature snooze in the recliner or a conversation-less detox in front of the television. My wife has sacrificed everything for MY call. The least she deserves is my best self saved for her.

This is my “drop-and-give-me-twenty” moment. After three decades in youth ministry, I’m still figuring it out, too. All of us have areas in life and ministry that need a new, bootcamp-esque outlook. What are yours?


Photo by Fitsum Admasu on Unsplash

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4 ‘Suggestions’ From Your...

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