I have a lot of friends in youth ministry. My best friend, Eric Hendrickson, is my mentor in youth ministry. He is my go to guy, when it comes to questions or problems in my ministry. There are other friends I go to and call, but Eric is my guy! He has been in ministry for almost 15 years and he has experienced a lot. Yet, I can remember a time when I was so full of myself that I would ask him things, just to see what he would say, and do the exact opposite.

In youth ministry, we tend to hear what we want to hear. We can do the same with the Gospel. We say what we want it to say. I can easily manipulate the Gospel, stories of my life, and anything else, to get across my message. I hear what I want to hear.

How many times have you thought to yourself, after coming from a meeting with the senior pastor, "I could do his job. If only I were in his position, this church would be booming!"? I have said this a few times in my short career in youth ministry. When we come away from meetings like this, we are either being chewed out because the giant hole in the wall form the lock in, we said something to tick off a parent who brings in a lot of money, or we just didn't do our best at something. We get callous towards criticism or help, and we think that we ALWAYS know better.

I can claim I still think some of these things. I think that I am good at what I do. The reason I think this is because I have been trained to do so, but more importantly, I am blessed by God with great gifts and talents to help a youth ministry flourish. God places people in our lives, who have helped pave the way to where I am today. Eric has been through a lot of hell in his life to be at the amazing church he is in now. I have been through certain parts of hell as well.

I would only hear what I wanted to hear. That means that I would even shut out God and pretend that I was listening. We can all say that we are not the best listeners. Parents come to us and make suggestions, but they don't run a youth ministry, they don't know! The pastor makes a suggestion to help you grow your youth ministry, but he taught Fred Flinstone and Moses, his/her ways are old and archaic.

I want to encourage youth ministers to do three things:
1. ALWAYS LISTEN TO GOD! Seek God first. His ways are NEVER archaic. We need to CONSTANTLY stay HUNGRY for God to talk to us. He can speak to us through a concerned or ticked off parent, a senior pastor who is older than dust, or a friend who has been in youth ministry for a while and is battled tested and rested and ready.

2. Find a person to help you. Eric was my youth pastor. He kind of gave me the nudge towards youth ministry, and I thought he was NUTS! Now I talk to Eric at least 10 times a day about plans, questions and the crazy part is he values my opinion and will even ask ME questions. (Don't worry though, I don't have a big ego, but I can't control the size of my huge head.) Find a person in youth ministry who will hold you accountable. Eric asks me tough questions to keep me on my toes and he encourages me towards scripture.

3. BE OPEN! We MUST be open to criticism, complaints and yes even compliments. We have to be ready to not just hear people, but to listen to them. Listen loudly and only speak when it is your turn! I have learned to listen and man do my ears hear it! At my last church, I did what I wanted to and I went through a lot of hell that I brought on myself. I did not listen to God, Eric, or even my senior pastor. I listened to him when it mattered most and I was so beat up that I had nothing else to do.

Do you like to hear the sound of your own voice? Do you think...better yet, do you KNOW what is best for the church and youth ministry you work for? Do you wish you could run the church like you do the youth ministry because your group is constantly growing?

If you answered yes to ANY of these questions, it is time to step back. Clean out your ears and find a place and time to listen to someone with experience, your senior pastor, and JESUS MOST IMPORTANTLY! I still like to hear my own voice, but I have relinquished control to Jesus in my ministry. Sometimes I want to grab the reigns and drive, but I might drive it off a cliff with my huge ideas. I am nothing new to youth ministry, but I am unique in the ministry God has blessed me with. I will listen to those who have paved the way, I will listen to my pastor and even ticked off parents, but most of all I will listen to God. His ways are never old and never stop!

I want to encourage those who read this blog to try to hand over the reigns. Give the students in your ministry some leadership and control. Pray for the students. Find adults who want to invest in the lives of the students and pray for them. Develop and disciple students and adults alike in the group. Before all of this, listen to God and give Him ULTIMATE control. I have driven a ministry off a cliff before because I thought I knew what I was doing. I am only in ministry 5 years, but I know I still have A TON OF STUFF to learn. God will bless you when you listen to Him.

Do you struggle with listening to God or others? What are some struggles you have now that maybe someone else who reads this blog can help with? Comment below so we can foster a helping and loving community of youth ministers.


Matt McKee said...

Very nice post. Nice reminder to do life together with others.

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