Some things I’ve been thinking about lately (rants)

Random ponderingsBare with me as I unload a mind dump of stuff that’s been running through my head lately. If you have any thoughts on these items, please feel free to comment below.

1. Sometimes I feel that teens are replacing Christianity for Churchianity, as if being busy with lots of Bible studies somehow equals spiritual growth, or even a relationship with Jesus. Unfortunately, I think they’re seeing that modeled from parents, youth leaders, and even pastors.

2. This generation really has a consumeristic mindset about church and ministry. It’s all about what “I want” or “I need” more than anything else. If they don’t like it, then they don’t come, which isn’t want the body of Christ is about at all. The pressure youth workers feel is to give kids what they want because then they see the ministry “grow” and unfortunately we fail to give them what they really need, because if we did that, then everyone would leave because that’s often not what they want. I’m thinking it’s better to have a small group of growing, committed teens than a large group of kids who are pressuring us to resort to entertainment that expect everything to be “fun.”

3. There will always be “cliques.” Fighting against it is probably a futile effort. Instead, we need to find ways to leverage the friend groups and capitalize on those existing relationships. I mean, we all have people we naturally gravitate toward more than others, right?

4. High school upper-classmen totally underestimate the influence they can have on jr. highers. In many ways, 7th and 8th graders look up to and respect juniors and seniors even more than they do adults. I need to be more intentional about making that happen for the high school students who are spiritually and emotionally mature.

5. Youth ministry is so much more powerful when teens take ownership of something and feel like they’re in control of the direction and vision. I wonder how I can best help keep their vision from being misguided and imbalanced without putting a damper on it.

6. Can’t believe I turned down someone’s vision in our church for a youth facility or a youth room (neither of which we have). Most youth workers would jump at that! Guess I’m more committed than I thought to making sure teens are an integrated part of the life of the body here, not just a separated age group, or a minichurch.

7. It seems like mentoring is becoming all the rage right now. I’m seeing too many well-intentioned ministries starting mentoring programs that are really just membership-only websites with resources. C’mon, if you’re gonna mentor, actually do it — don’t just re-label your content because the mentoring bandwagon will help your market your stuff better.

8. How in the world do we start to combat narcissism in our youth ministries? (Thanks to Walt Mueller for putting this one in my head during last Monday’s LIVE YM Talk.)

9. I know studies show that teens are supposed to have an attention span of only 25 minutes or so, but over the past couple months I’m witnessing many of my youth group kids sitting down and listening intently to content-heavy sermons that are over an hour long! It shows me that they really crave spiritual depth when it’s practical and highly applicable.

10. My little 4-month-old daughter is amazing! She’s so much fun! But having her around makes it much harder to keep up with blogging the way I used to. My rhythm here has slowed from publishing content almost every week-day to maybe once or twice a week. I’m trying to find my groove again. When I do invest time into the site, it’s mostly behind-the-scenes stuff, like updating the mentoring program, recruiting new mentors, working on my book that YS/Zondervan is publishing next year, preparing for the Online Missions Trip, responding to emails, working on updates for, etc. I think I could make a full-time job out of this if I wanted to.

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Posted on December 10, 2009

  • Brian Ford

    In response to:

    1 – I was in a situation where a student was very "active" in attending Bible studies on a regular basis as per what Tim stated. During a retreat weekend this student approached me and said she thought she was a "real" Christian, but was actually going through the motions because it was the "cool" thing to do at the time. At the retreat she surrendered her life to Christ completely and she finds spending time in God's Word in a quiet place very valuable. Before the retreat her entire bible study life consisted on attended group bible studies and no personal quiet time. She admitted that before the retreat it was all about head knowledge and hanging out with her friends and not a relationship with Jesus.

    7 – AMEN! Thanks for putting together a great mentor program and allowing me to be a part of the team.

    9 – I try not to believe what the "studies" say, but rather gauge what I see personally happening in the lives of the students I serve.

  • PJ Wong

    thanks tim. It's always good to feel the phrase "me too" go back and forth between fellow youth workers.
    10- dude, having kids makes your old "stuff" harder, but I'm learning to never regreat neglecting other responsibilties because of my daughter. the other stuff can wait, can be let down (even parishoners), and at times, ignored. But it's totally worth it to spend a day with your daugther instead of going into the office (unless you get fired for it, of course).

    Merry Christmas dude, snowing in Canada, but you're just as north as we are!

  • jesse

    2 and 6 go together. If we have a youth ministry that is all about what students get and tailoring things specifically to them, then of course they will be narcissistic. I'm in a new ministry situation that has put teens happiness with the ministry in place over teens hearts. And the results are a sad reminder to me about what I need to be about.

  • Thanks Tim. Keep it comin.

  • Tim, thanks for your "rants". So thankful when you let us in on your heart and see that I am not alone in some of the things I am seeing as well.

    For 2: I agree with the fact that we can be too "fun" and not enough "Truth". But there needs to be an element of fun to attract the teen that would never come to church just because it's church. It is being real about the fun you are having as only an element of what you do not the main thing you do. So many get this idea that we "need to have fun" in order to somehow get them to believe what you believe. I hate that bait and switch mentality that goes along with so many in ministry. teens are very wise to that and can smell it coming.

    5: Working on getting the teens to own more and more in a healthy way. It would be easy to just give it over and pray everything works out. This was done before I came on and it was a disaster. We are now in a healthy place to give the teens control over the night. Very cool to watch what happens when they "own it"

    6. We have a room dedicated to the teens, but is a multi-purpose room that anyone can use when needed. They know it is mainly for them, but we are all one body, no one ministry is exclusive to the other. I agree with your feeling of making sure they always know that they are as much a part of the church as the adults. And the adults also recognize them as such.

    9.: Yes! Teens want to know the Truth! When you give time to God and the Holy Spirit to use you instead of trying to make it work, teens will listen! Why? Because they want to hear something that is true and makes sense. They crave belonging and desire to be known. God has a desire for them like no other. When that is being shared and you give them opportunity to give feedback, they will sit there all day!

    10. That's awesome! God bless you as you venture into this world of parenting. No it isn't easy when you are in ministry and have a young family. If you haven't already, get "Choosing to Cheat" by Andy Stanley. Good book to help you navigate some of those choices when it comes to ministry and family.

  • Thanks for the honesty and transparency. You bring out major points that many ym's are struggling to embrace. It seems like the pendulum always swings from on end to the other without struggle for the middle. The entertainment focus and "fun" driven has led me crazy. We are not intended to compete with the "fun" of that the world offers. However, many adults and parents are still using this as a benchmark if there kid wants to go to youth group or not. Come on! When did teens have so many choices. Well, before I get off topic thanks for brining out "real" ym points that we need to struggle more with.

  • Hmpf. Intense debate just erased my long, well-thought out comment.

    Let's reduce it to this …

    Amen to all points!

    Narcissism of the youth or of the youth leader? (Haven't listened to talk yet …)

    Couldn't agree more on the mentor thing. It seems like every ministry on the planet has one and are doing just as you said which is a shame because of the resources it might take away from somewhere else.

    Thanks for all you do …

  • Great stuff. Thoughts/Questions:

    1: Yes! I add to this sometimes because parents often are happy when their teens are involved in church activities, and I like it when parents are happy, so we do more activities because the parents like their kids involved, and so on and so forth. I need to do a better job promoting Jesus who loves the Church and died for her, rather than promoting the great stuff we do as a local church.

    5: I am so thankful for our students who want to be involved in planning and leading. One solid sophomore came to me a couple of weeks ago and said he'd love to try out teaching sometime. I want to help them use their gifts, because in many ways, they know best how to minister to their friends. I have no clue how to harness all this, so I just kind of stumble along.

    6: We are going to be doing some renovations to our church building in the next year and a half. My friend and co-worker pushed back when the architect suggested a plan that included a large, decked-out youth auditorium for the reasons you gave. But we are planning on expanding the youth space we have, mostly for more breakout rooms for in-depth studies and small groups. How do we guard against being a minichurch while having our own space for ministry-specific activities? I already am considering putting our Sunday morning gathering on hold for a while because I don't think enough students are attending worship with their parents.

    10: Yep. Things will continue to change, but they are for the better when we have the right perspective. I do miss the vast amounts of time I had to devote to ministry and other projects. Now that we have our second daughter who's six weeks old, it's changed even more. Brooklyn Lindsey posted on being a mom in youth ministry a couple of months ago (… and that got me thinking about how ministry has changed since I became a dad almost two years ago (Nov. 25th entry on my blog if you're interested).

    By the way, if there are some tasks that can be done for this ministry (this website IS a ministry to those of us who frequent it), I'm sure many of us would be able to chip in here and there where skills and time allow. Thanks for all you do.

  • I would like to speak to question 8. How in the world do we start to combat narcissism in our youth ministries? (Thanks to Walt Mueller for putting this one in my head during last Mondays LIVE YM Talk.)

    Narcissism is inevitable. If a youth pastor has a name, opinion, and a pulse, there will be egos. At times, youth pastors like to play the "humble police." Some youth pastors are really good at judging what people are arrogant and what people are being humble. Bottom line: the people who are narcissistic are the people who disagree with us.

    I think it is hilarious when a youth ministry has some success and the youth pastor states: It was all God and NOT ME. So much irony in that. In reality, if it was ALL God then your youth ministry would be a whole-hell of a lot better. When God is in something, typically it is unplanned and doesn't need some person commenting how it was NOT their efforts.

    Narcissism is like porn. Every dude likes it, and most dudes deny they don't do it. There is no way we can ever get rid of it. Youth ministries simply need to embrace narcissism. Many youth pastors need to become more social and self aware. The more we know ourselves and how our personality can come across as a hot shot, the more we know how to dodge the narcissistic behavior.

    So some answers to the question:
    1. Talk a lot about how your youth ministry sucks and how you suck. Try to use a lot of details and talk a lot about how you try to across as a "know it all." And if you are funny, laugh at all your own jokes.
    2. Make sure to state in any conversation revolving around your youth ministry success: that God is in about 10% of your youth ministry (and that is being generous).
    3. Never say I am "humbled". This really means = You knew exactly what you were doing and predicted the outcome.
    4. Make sure to get a great head shot of yourself.
    5. Intentionally go after people you think are narcissistic. Actually call them narcissistic and see what happens. If they want to verbally or physically fight you, they are narcissistic and you are too.
    6. If a lot of parents and people don't like you, then you are ego driven.
    7. Specifically list out how you are narcissistic and give that list to your students and tell them to make fun of you for your selfish tendencies.
    8. In your youth ministry talks, talk about how many times you google yourself in a week.

    Here is the deal: We live in a church world that heavily relies on character and creditability. If you are not thinking about yourself or know yourself, you will get eaten alive. You or your youth ministry will have no survival skills. Honestly I think we need some more courageous youth workers and youth ministries that may come across as "narcissistic" but in reality they are really trying to do reckless and crazy stuff for God. I am sorry but having a little bit of self confidence is not a bad thing.

    If God has given you a vision and passion to bring His Kingdom to kids, don't you dare get scare of the church leaders who call you arrogant. I think God will be more proud of His faithful youth workers who did things, rather than the youth workers who were the "humble police."

    Honestly saying Jesus is the way, truth, and the life is an arrogant claim, so we need to be ready for the resistance.

  • Better out than in.

  • Jeff B.

    Hey Tim, you have to look at things in perspective. I have a 1 year old daughter myself and she is great, however having her takes up more of my time and I have also invested less in my ministry. I have delegated some things out and other things just like PJ Wong said I have just completely let go. The first 3-5 years are the most important formative years in a child and you need to be there for them. There is always good things to do, but ask yourself what is the best thing I could be doing with this time. What are the best things in my ministry, don't settle for doing things just because they are "good." Hope this is somewhat helpful

  • I echo pretty much all of these, but my favorite is #3, I have been saying that for years. I get tired of people complaining about cliques, groups of friends are natural and good. Certainly there can be healthy and unhealthy cliques (groups of friends).

    #8 It's amazing he impact the gospel has in so many areas. Preaching the gospel will help if it is preached in a way that is true and clear. Jesus is the ultimate weapon against a narcissistic society. He selflessly gave everything for us, how arrogant is it when we keep it to ourselves. We need to be on His mission!!

  • Have you ever noticed? Adults have circles of friends. Teens have cliques.

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