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Shifting Our Mindset: From Obligation to Opportunity

Seattle Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch has become my all time favorite interview to watch. Many of you will watch this entertaining athlete this weekend as you host youth group Super Bowl, sorry, youth group “BIG GAME” (thanks, NFL) parties all over the country. Most recently during Super Bowl media day, Lynch answered every interview question with eight words – “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.

Lynch doesn’t trust the media but the league contractually requires him to be available to them for interviews. So, on Super Bowl Media Day, Marshawn fulfilled his four and a half minute obligation (which he timed on his own phone) by repeating the same answer over and over again.

If Marshawn Lynch were a youth worker, his interview might sound something like this…

Do you love recruiting adult volunteers?Marshawn

I’m just here so I won’t get fined.

Are you excited about confirmation starting?

I’m just here so I won’t get fined.

Is your youth ministry website up to date?

I’m just here so I won’t get fined.

timberlakeI’ll admit, around my seventh year of youth ministry, youth group Super Bowl parties began to feel like a contractual obligation. My lead pastor was dead set on an annual blowout for Super Bowl Sunday which was to include the world’s biggest halftime Jesus Juke ever known to man. It was as if the Super Bowl was God’s gift to youth ministry. Get kids here to watch the game, and hit them with Jesus during halftime! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against annual events as outreach opportunities, but my “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” attitude about the Super Bowl was being formed by the following internal struggles…

+I hated missing the halftime show. The last halftime show I actually got to watch involved a wardrobe malfunction.

+90 percent of the kids wouldn’t even watch the game.

+100 percent of the adult leaders wouldn’t miss a second of the game. This meant running around chasing stray teens all night by myself.

+I’m not gonna see half of these students again until spring retreat, am I?

Super Bowl parties weren’t my only struggle in youth ministry. At times I’ve taught Sunday School, hosted small groups, and even repeated mission trips more out of obligation than passion. But finding God in the midst of our least favorite ministry tasks is not about keeping the lead pastor happy, or holding onto church traditions, it’s about our willingness to be amazed by God in less than amazing circumstances.

So here’s what I’ve learned. Super Bowl parties (and other ministry events like it) are not the most amazing outreach tools ever known to youth ministry, but they do give us the opportunity to reach students who have never been to youth group, or have been missing in action for a long time. It gives us a chance to sit around and eat a pound of queso and drink a gallon of soda while making a student feel like family.

What is the solution when we begin to operate certain aspects of youth ministry or youth ministry programs out of obligation, as if we’re merely fulfilling part of our contract?

Shifting our mindset.

  1. Every aspect of ministry is about relationships. If two students are there, no matter what it is, we get to do what we’re called to do and love to do.
  2. Transformational youth ministry doesn’t exist because of what we do, but why we do it. It might be my personal opinion that the old Sunday School model is outdated and useless, but if I do it with a passion to love students towards a Jesus centered life, it can be transformational.
  3. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God can use us to breathe new life into the oldest of church traditions. Confirmation doesn’t have to be a snooze fest. It can lay the foundation for students who will fervently and passionately pursue God for the rest of their lives. I’ve experienced this firsthand.

When our call to youth ministry begins to make us feel bound by contract, we must allow God to transform ministry obligations into ministry opportunities. For me, it requires getting over myself and considering the bigger picture. When I find myself slipping back into an “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” attitude, I must shift my mindset and remember it is an honor and a privilege to serve students, even if it means missing the halftime show.

4 thoughts on “Shifting Our Mindset: From Obligation to Opportunity

  1. This. This is it. This is inspiring. This is so true. I am blessed by your knowledge.

  2. Theresa Mazza

    Heather so glad this post spoke to you. Praying for you and the youth you serve.

  3. Excellent article, Theresa. You’re a great writer.

  4. We used the commercials to discuss the relevance and how did that affect us as young Christian Catholics. And we did the same thing with the half time show. It was awesome this year. Some of the girls even planned a sleep over since there was no school the next day. Coming together in and out of youth ministry—Thank You Jesus.

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Shifting Our Mindset: From Obligation...

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