Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Guilty Youth Pastor

This is a hard blog for me to write. I try to be pretty transparent in my writing so that you know the real me, but today is going to be even more transparent. I'm going to share a huge part of my heart.

A couple of months ago I applied for Tim Schmoyer's "Youth Ministry Mentorship" and my application was selected by one of the mentors. I have had two 1-hour meetings with my mentor Ryan Nielsen and I have grown immensely.

As a part of the program we're asked to read 3 books: Your First 2 Years of Youth Ministry by Doug Fields, Life in Student Ministry by Tim Schmoyer and Ministry Mutiny by Greg Stier. I had read Doug's book before and immeditely read Tim's book the second it came in the mail, but I hadn't found time to read Greg's book.

Ryan asked me to start reading Greg's book so we could discuss it over the next couple of weeks because he said it is a book that he wishes youth workers would read at least once a month. So I did. I picked it up and started reading through it. I got to page 39 and knew that this book was going to transform me. That I'm not going to have the same outlook on youth ministry anymore and I'm only part-way through it.

Greg writes on page 39:
"This mutiny is against that unspoken paradigm that we have to do youth ministry as it has always been done. When it comes to curriculum, I rebel against the idea that you just go out and buy the latest stuff without first checking it out thoroughly to make sure it's the right stuff at the right time for your youth group." 

When I read that page I had to stop and set the book down for a few minutes and take a look at myself. I remember sitting in the quietness of my office and feeling like I didn't want to read on. I felt guilty. Why the guilty feeling? Because I'm guilty of buying in to this "unspoken paradigm." This paradigm that suggests "Oh this church did it this way so you have to do it that way." The paradigm that says "it has to be done this way or else you'll fail."

If you know anything about where I am currently in ministry I am in my first full-time youth ministry position and starting a youth ministry at a church that has not ever had a serious youth program. I was reading that challenging paragraph 2 days before I was to sit down with a group of people I had called to partner with me in this venture and reveal to them my vision for the youth ministry at the church, but Mr. Stier decides to go and mess me up.

So here I sit and admit...I'm guilty of buying into the lie. I'm guilty of buying into the lie that my youth ministry has to have a plasma screen on the wall with the latest video game system hooked up to it. That we have to have the latest and most expensive curriculum on the market to effectively reach students. I'm guilty of thinking that "it worked for them it has to work for us."

My goal is to take what Greg is saying and apply it to my ministry. To see that building a youth ministry is more about spending time in prayer listening to what God wants for the students He has entrusted me with than listening to mega-churches pushing the curriculum they have produced. That talking with a student over a soda at Taco Bell is more important than sitting in my office and trying to come up with a creative branding for our student ministry.

Greg Stier, I'm not sure if you'll ever read this, but you have my idea of what youth ministry is to look like. That everything has a place, but we should evaluate the needs of our students and what God wants for our ministry before applying ideas or curriculum. I cannot thank you enough!


  1. Matt,

    I'm so glad that you grabbed the book and started reading. I'm thrilled to read how God is already transforming your heart through the thoughts and ideas of Minisrty Mutiny. Can't wait to talk to you more about it and see how God continues to "wreck you" as you keep going through that book. God Bless brother!!!

  2. Hey Matthew,

    I praise God that he encouraged you through Ministry Mutiny. That book was birthed out of a lot of painful mistakes and missteps I've made in ministry over the last twenty five years. But out of the ashes of failure principles, timeless principles emerge. Anyway, thanks for the Tweet and thanks for the encouragement. May God continue to use you to impact teenagers as you keep your soul rooted in Him!

  3. Great post! Love your transparency here. Greg's book was significant to me, as well, years ago. But I learned that the book should come with a warning: just because you are starting to "get it" doesn't mean that others will right away. Hopefully they eventually will 'get it" through you, but be patient because turning a ship takes a lot of work and a lot of time. Stick with it for the long-haul! :)