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Jesus: Master or Mascot?

I’m troubled by a thought that crept into my head the other day: In my youth ministry is Jesus the Master or the mascot?

First, let me explain the difference.

When Jesus is the Master, our youth ministries look like this:

– Teenagers are coming to Jesus and being baptized.

– Worship is exciting and is at the forefront of our time together.

– The Bible saturates our conversations and is preached with conviction.

– Love is both in us and flowing out from us as we are serving others.

– Things just feel right (not always happy and shiny, but right).

When Jesus is the mascot, our youth ministries look like this:

– The baptismal is dry as a bone (and has been for a while).

– Worship is a musical time-filler.

– The Bible is an afterthought – a quick footnote thrown in after a game of four-on-the-couch or dodgeball.

– Gossip, anger, and hurtful words are present in our group.

– Things do not feel right – we as youth ministers have a lack of peace and feel uneasy in our ministries.

When Jesus is moved from the center of our activity to the sidelines – when He ceases to be Master and becomes a mascot – our ministries suffer for it. This is what I’m challenging us to do: keep Christ and His cross as the beating heart at the center of our ministries to teenagers, pumping life and new blood into our veins. Let’s not let preaching, worship, and discipleship become afterthoughts in our ministries, and let’s not be tempted to replace faith with fun. (But by all means, keep the fun!)

How does your ministry look? Is Jesus the Master – or the mascot? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Break down the time you spend with students during the week (most youth ministries only have 3-6 hours per week with students – a sobering thought itself). How much of your time is spent doing the following:
1. Bible study/teaching
2. Worship
3. Serving
4. Playing games
5. Just hanging out
6. Nothing structured at all

Hopefully most of your answers are at the top of that list – otherwise, Jesus might be the mascot of your youth ministry, not the Master.

2. What about your daily routine? As the leader of your ministry, how much time do you spend each day reading/studying the Bible, praying, or worshiping personally?

If your answer to any or all of these is little to none, Jesus may simply be the mascot of your ministry – or worse, your life.

3. Could you, right now, tell me several specific stories from the last month of how God is moving in the lives of your students?

If not, Jesus could be a mascot and not the Master of your youth ministry.

I’m praying for you and for me and for all of us in this adventure called youth ministry today – praying that we would see Jesus as our Master and put Him at the forefront of all we do in ministry. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this or ways you’ve made sure that Jesus didn’t become a mascot in your youth ministry. Send me an e-mail at

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Jesus: Master or Mascot?

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