5 REGRETS I HAVE FROM MY YEARS IN YOUTH MINISTRYAs you know, my position has changed and evolved quite a bit over the last 2 months. I accepted a family pastor position after serving as a student pastor for 7 years. This was a very difficult decision. It was tough for my wife and I, but we are confident that this was the plan that God had for us.

Now that I am technically somewhat out of the traditional “youth pastor” position, I look back over the last 7 years, and wish that I could do things a bit differently. Experience helps you so much. The longer you serve, the more you learn. I have entitled this post “5 regrets I have from my years in youth ministry.” I have wrestled with the word “regret” when writing this post, but I finally settled on it. Now, I am not sitting up late at night agonizing over these things at all. In fact, I am totally over them, because you have to move on after you recognize mistakes. So, these are things that I would have done differently if I knew then what I know now about youth ministry.

  1. Listened to experienced leaders– When you first start out right out of college, there are times when you think you have figured it out. You think you have arrived, and you have the answers to the questions in student ministry. If I could go back and start over, I would for sure listen and have regular conversations with more experienced leaders in youth ministry. I would not just listen to them, but I would heed their advice, and implement more of  their ideas.
  2. Acquired a love for reading sooner– One thing that grows your leadership development is reading. When I was growing up, I hated reading. When I first started in youth ministry, I still did not care for reading that much. Now, I love it. I wish that I had of started reading consistently sooner than I did.
  3. Demonstrated more grace to students– Sometimes in youth ministry, our expectations for students become so high (not always a bad thing) that we begin to  become frustrated if the development  of our students is not up to par with where we think they should be. In this case, we struggle to demonstrate grace to them. I wish I had of acted out of more grace at certain times in youth ministry. Jesus always demonstrated grace, and He is the model.
  4. Balanced fun and serious more effectively– In youth ministry, everyone knows that students need to be able to have fun with you as their leader. The difficult part is balancing fun and the serious time. For example, if you are always fun and crazy with them, when the time comes where you have to discipline them, they will struggle to take you to seriously. Begin to balance this and make each time (fun and serious) very obvious to the students so they know when it is time to have fun and goof off and time to sit up and be serious! This also helps them recognize and look to you as  their leader in serious times rather than just your friend.
  5. Connected students into the local church– Like it or not, it is very easy for students to become disconnected with the local church. They are connected to the youth group, but not the local church in many cases (especially if their parents do not come to the church). I wish that I had of connected them and had more of a strategic plan to connect them to the local church when I began in youth ministry.

Is there anything that you would add to the list?

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10 thoughts on “5 Regrets I Have From My Years in Youth Ministry

  1. Very interesting post. I was in the Church for years until God called me into the ministry and quite a real call, as the call was also verified by an old friend who was Spirit filled. He spoke the same words to me and told me the very same scriptures that was on my mind one month prior when I said yes to God. I know that I would have a hard time and probably represented God improperly as many do today, if I had been called in my youth. At my age of 57 at the time of the call I studied theology and became ordained after about 6 years. since that time I pastored, filled pulpits and each was a learning experience. I learned compassion by becoming a counselor at Teen Challenge here in Missouri. I learned what Jesus meant when He told us to love our enemies because Jesus saw the turmoil in each persons life and that was part of His reason for His sacrifice. He saw the turmoil of children that grow up in a home of alcohol and drugs; sometimes Christian or secular parents divorcing and leaving the children feeling so unloved. We need to find how to step into their world and see the pain they bear. That goes also for older people who become so tranquilized in their world, that they can’t see the forest for the trees. I know of a youth who, not finished his ministerial courses and qualifications, accepted a senior pastor position and is so pigheaded that he will not listen or take advice from older pastors. He, not being really ready, was kind of drug into this position and many of the older members who sacrificed to build that church have since left. We all need to have a mentor who has been in the fire and has been refined, for the knowledge they hold is very valuable and books written by such men provide a wealth of knowledge, however I caution one to learn the word because there are false prophets out there. I hope your post speaks to many young people and pastors to understand the importance of getting the message right, and also the compassionate love that Jesus taught us.

    1. Gail, the parent factor was another one that I thought of adding. I got better at this as years progressed in youth ministry, but it took some time for sure.

      JE

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