David Hanson wrote a fantastic rant post, “5 Things Youth Pastors Need to Stop”. Hopefully, you have stopped doing those 5 things by now but if not, there is still time. And if you have stopped those things or are planning to stop, here are 5 things Youth Pastors need to start!
1. Start Communicating the GOSPEL Dynamically
Entertainment can’t be the KING of your youth ministry and yet sadly it is for many churches. The KING has a throne and the KING’s name is Jesus. He needs to be the MAIN focus; the biblical story, his story, the gospel needs to be presented at every gathering or you’ve missed an important opportunity.
However, if you are going to push the gospel you need to learn to communicate it in a way that is engaging and dynamic. Primarily, because the gospel IS engaging and dynamic! So when you bore it all up, create a slumber party in your sermon, and cause people to leave scratching their head saying, “What?!” – it’s time to adjust the way you present the most life-changing, exciting news of ALL-TIME! If you don’t know how or where to start on that, stayed tuned for a followup post to this point.
2. Start Making it About Fruitfulness
Numbers can’t be your focus. When numbers are the focus, you lose sight on what Jesus thought was important. Jesus wasn’t anti-crowd or anti-big groups, however, he did push crowds away if they didn’t seem to get it. (John 6:60-66) Through Jesus’ teachings we learn that his primary goal was not MORE butts in seats but those that are growing the right fruit.
If God has entrusted you with 10 teens, disciple them so they are bearing good fruit! And they will then begin to disciple others. If God has entrusted your ministry with a 1,000 teens then find ways to make sure they are bearing good fruit so they also begin to share it with others! Both are HUGE tasks that need lots of prayer and all of the Holy Spirit.
3. Start Being You
If slang, trendy clothes, and knowing the lyrics to a Taylor Swift song is you. BE YOU and the teens will love it even if they pretend to hate it. If wearing New Balance shoes, cargo shorts, and saying things like “Aw Shucks!” is you, then BE YOU.
Don’t try to be a teen, cause you aren’t one. Don’t try to be considered “cool” by them because that actually will stunt their spiritual growth. What they really need is a Youth Pastor that is confident in who God has them to be! That’s what they want to become! I’ve seen very effective Youth Pastors on both ends of the “cool” spectrum but the defining quality was they were themselves, they weren’t faking it. Just be you, and lead your teens.
4. Start Creating a Long-Term Plan
You simply can’t allow anymore throw-away nights. Off-nights? Maybe. But don’t throw-away anymore nights. Create a plan for your gatherings and a goal/vision behind the gatherings! Pray that God gives you vision for these students for the six years (academics pending) you get to invest in their lives.
5. Start Implementing Healthy Margins In Your Life
Margins are what allow you to do youth ministry or any ministry for more than a few years. Burnout is real and you can’t do everything. Maybe this is a reminder to say “No” to a few things and “Yes” to a few days off. The reality is, inside ministry there is always something else that you can do so it’s important to find healthy margins.
Mark Knight is a Children’s and Youth Pastor in Tacoma, WA. He leads a team of directors that cover ministry from birth through young adults. He graduated from Northwest University with a double-major in Youth Ministry and Biblical Studies. Mark is married to his amazing wife, Lindsay, and they are expecting their first child in December.