20 Observations at the Beginning of My 20th Year in Youth Ministry

This month, I began my 20th year working full-time as a youth pastor. I’ve had a lot of odd jobs here and there and some regular part-time work to make ends meet, but since April of 1999 my full time work has been for a church. How about 20 observations from the past 19 years?

  1. April Fools Day may be an odd time to roll into a new town, especially when Easter is a couple days later and will be your first Sunday on staff.
  2. We were finding hidden chocolate eggs all over the house as we moved in… and didn’t find others until 6 months later when the furnace kicked in and melted them!
  3. There were other options, but God was clear when He sent us to Auburn. It was a great place to learn how to function as a church leader and I’m grateful for the patience His people showed us there as we grew together.
  4. Clarity doesn’t always make things easy.
  5. Clarity isn’t God’s highest ideal – and He won’t provide it if it will stifle your faith.
  6. One of the Jr. High boys on my first day thought I was his big sister’s new boyfriend. I wasn’t… No one makes that mistake anymore.
  7. I could not have done what I have been doing without LuAnn.
  8. It was funny to think about how differently I began to process what I was saying to students when my own kids got old enough to be a part of the student body!
  9. No matter how much influence you or I think the youth pastor has with a student, Mom and Dad still set the tone for discipleship of the next generation.
  10. A lot has changed in the youth ministry landscape. Much of it for the better… but so has youth culture. We can’t afford to just keep doing what we’ve done.
  11. Every church can rescue the next generation.
  12. God will often use the students who’ve tested us the most to make His Kingdom most visible to the world around them. Some of the most spastic, broken, hyper, depressed, and maladjusted kids I’ve known have faithfully grown to be great leaders of churches, families, & businesses who display God’s love everywhere. Very few would have picked them for this when they were young. God did.
  13. Youth ministry is still looking beyond what a student presents on the surface to see what God sees inside and then helping the student see it, too.
  14. Some of my favorite moments in youth ministry are still the roadside communion stops on the way to CIY Move or 3:18 Ministries in Arizona. Some of the most meaningful ministry happens outside… Outside our walls, outside our plans, & outside our routines. I need to get outside more.
  15. I’ve only worked full time at two different churches. Both situations held surprises I could not have imagined. Prepare to be surprised.
  16. Many students are almost absolutely unaware of how loved they are by God and that He is, right now, at work in the world to show them that love.
  17. One of the most important things we can do is to open doors for them to see Him.
  18. Youth ministry will not lead to lasting transformation of young lives without teaching students to dig into the Word of God for themselves.
  19. Students who gain the tools to read and understand the Bible will not only lead the church some years down the road, they will lead us now.
  20. The best is yet to come.

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