I want to say this up front before you read any further in this blog post. Youth pastor your Job/Life/Ministry in Students lives go far beyond the four years they are in Middle/High school. You are to be their youth pastor for life!
I also want to say… if you are reading this and are in anyway related to these two individual, please know I’m not judging. Just talking about the situations they are in and how their lives have affected the life of this Student Pastor.
I had two youth pastors growing up. I will refer to them as Roy and Don to protect their families.
Roy was the first one that I remember. He was a redneck, country kind of guy, didn’t really seem to like us teenagers, or, maybe it was just the group of fellas that I hung out with (Tracy, Bubba, Dale and Me) now that I am a youth pastor I understand what “our kind” is like ha ha. Roy always seemed one way off the platform than he did on. Our services were pretty much the same every Wednesday. We would hang out for a few min, sing a song from the good old Baptist hymnal and then Roy would preach hard for about 45 min…Almost every week the sermon would end up with his testimony and then he would say Now “I don’t want any of yall to end up like I WAS” and “I want all of yall on this altar broken.” I’ve got to admit, I cried a lot of tears, some just to show that I was crying, some out of fear, some just because it was what everyone was doing and sometimes I just went down to the altar to shut him up. I knew we would get out if someone went down to the altar and “prayed”.
I could go on, but I’m gonna jump ahead about 13 years. My buddy Dale and I are sitting at Chili’s downtown Chattanooga, TN. It’s middle of summer and we hear this really loud guy just cussing like a sailor, so I turn around just to check him out and see who it is and low and behold IT”S ROY! He has two women all over him, drunk outta his mind…Just wasted. So I asked him if he knew who Dale or I was. He said “Hell no I don’t know you little S***’s, now get the F*** out my F*****G face” Wow, that was a nice reunion with our former “youth pastor.” I still don’t know how I feel about that encounter with him. I’ve actually tried to find him a many occasions. I just want talk to him and see what changed in his life to make him go so completely opposite of the “roy” we use to know?
Well, Roy was fired or quit or something like that. And to this day I have not seen or heard of him since that meeting at Chili’s.
All I know is our youth group went from a Redneck/hillbilly youth pastor to a Metro/sharp dressing/freakishly hugging everyone kind of youth pastor.
Don was a ok guy at first. You could tell he was trying really hard to “be cool” but his coolness was freaky/weird/strange/odd. I remember many times people talking about him being strange and the girls really didn’t like don. I thought he was alright… I went on so many mission trips with this dude all over the world. Never seemed weird to me, and didn’t seem that way until about 6 months ago. I got a call one night in the middle of last summer asking me if I had heard about our old youth pastor Don? I said “No, what’s up” she said “ Don, he was just arrested for murder!” me “WHAT?”
But let’s back up 11 years…Don left our church the winter of 1999 my senior year in high school. He became the pastor of a church up north. I thought about him every once in a while, wondering where he was, he just kinda left us teenagers. Didn’t really say goodbye. I saw him one time my sophomore year in College at Tennessee Temple University, it was during the “southwide preachers conference.” I called it “Mouthwide” but that’s for a whole notha blog!
Don seemed really distant, really didn’t have time to talk…Ya know the feeling when you’re talking to someone but they are looking past you to find someone better to talk to? That’s kinda how I felt during our three minute conversation. I mean I had been all over the world with this guy, I was studying to become a pastor. Following in his footsteps, He played a HUGE ROLE IN MY LIFE and he didn’t even seem to care that I was standing there talking to him.
Come to find out Don, had been having a 10 year affair with a member at the church he left us to go pastor. Late one night her husband was found Shot dead. Don accussed of killing him and then had the nerve to do the man’s funeral! I know this seems made up. I wish it was, but sadly it’s true.
My mind was blow! The only two “youth pastors” I had in my life were both just _____________ I’ll let you fill in the blank because I can’t seem to find the right words to describe what I feel.
You see the world is a difficult place for a teenager. Youth pastor/Student pastor/ Pastor to students what ever your call yourself you can help students navigate the complexities of life and be a positive influence for them or you can turn them off to anything Jesus. Your Life speaks louder than your word will ever speak!
Teenagers are constantly facing the struggle to form an identity, to figure out who they are. This is a phenomenal opportunity for us Youth Pastors to introduce them to an identity in Christ. We must provide them opportunities to live it out in a safe environment, My leadership team at www.Canyonschurch.com Has a “No flinch” policy that means. Come as you are is more than just a dress code. Because if we will help them form this type of identity it will stay with them for life. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” This verse is talking about more than just telling a teenager what to do; it is about more than giving a teenager a sermon once a week, this is talking about fully forming an identity conformed to the will of God. It is saying that if we will fully develop a whole person whose identity, who they are at their core, is centered in the person of Christ, they will not likely depart from Christ.
If you are involved in a youth ministry, you’re role is important and you want to do the best you can. you can do that in a few way..
- Tell them the truth. Teenagers are smart and if you try to “spin” them, they will not listen to you. Teach them what the Bible really says, not what you think they want to hear or what is socially acceptable. They are involved in your youth ministry because they are searching for truth. Don’t let them down.
- Integrity and Character should be your life. Whether you like it or not, your students are watching you (and not just at church). You are an example to them of the kind of Christian they desire to be. The way you live your life will greatly affect their views on what is right and wrong, healthy and unhealthy.
- Be the same all the time. A teenager’s world is full of lies and broken promises, so you must counteract that negativity by being a person of your word. If you absolutely cannot fulfill a promise, be sure to apologize. Doing what you say you will makes a dramatic impact on your youth.
- Care about the students. They aren’t interested in how “cool” you are or how much you know. Teenagers just want to be loved and accepted unconditionally. If you demonstrate genuine care for your students, it will make the love of Jesus more real to them than a million sermons would.
I pray for you Student pastor. That God would use you in a great and mighty way. Not just right now in the lives of the young people he has blessed you with. But, for their whole life! We answered the call to be Student pastors not just for two years or four years but for life long ministry.
Run this race well!
And if you do come to the point in your life where you are about to make a decision that you know can and will alter the course of your life Please know you have so many more lives than just your own that will be changed!
I leave you with the words from Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”