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I went to the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta back in 2009. This was my first NYWC experience. I was amazed at ALL the things that were dedicated to youth ministry. I was a kid at a candy store. I filled up my "swag bag" pretty quickly. Each day I would take ANYTHING that was free. I would sample this, sign up for that, get that t-shirt, play this game! I was like a middle school student at their first youth event!

At the big sessions, I looked around and I saw how people looked. I am a people watcher, so I like to look at surrounding people see how the interact, what they wear etc. Perry Noble came on stage and said something that I thought was the most astute proclamation of all time. He said, "We must be at a youth minister convention, LOOK AT ALL THIS FACIAL HAIR!" HE was right! Everyone had some kind of facial hair or shaved head. It was REALLY funny. I'll be honest, I don't remember right now what he talked about, but I was just taken back at the fact that there were over 3000 youth ministers in this one room ready to hear and receive encouragement.

We had some break out sessions, during the convention. You were able to take any class that you wanted about any subject. During this time, I was hoping to find the magic recipe to help my youth ministry grow spiritually and numerically. I suddenly got the feeling that a lot of other people were there for the same thing. When I look back, I would sometimes stretch things to make myself look better in front of other youth ministers. I wanted people to ask ME for help and advice. I wanted to be part of the convention, but as a speaker. I knew I had style. I knew I had the facial hair. I thought I knew it all!

I look back during that time in 2009, and it was a REALLY hard year for me. My parents were divorcing after 33 years of marriage, I was about to propose to my now wife. I was going through a lot of emotions and I was trying to seek all these different avenues for help and to fill me up. Nothing worked.

On the outside, I was complete. I looked good, I was doing well at my job (or so I made it appear) I was doing so many things that LOOKED good. On the inside, I felt a void. I felt black and blank. I was hurting, but I could not share my hurt or show that I was vulnerable. I was seeking outside influence to help save me on the inside. Then, I read the story of Moses. I read about the Israelite's and their journey they took. I looked at them, and I saw a lot of myself. They kept messing up over and over, only to come back to God and ask for forgiveness then do the same thing over and over again. It was a vicious empty cycle that had no end. I was on the same path!

I want to encourage youth ministers here. You see, we ALL need help. Here are some things that are nothing new, but simple enough to help you and encourage you to be the same on the inside as on the outside:
1. ALWAYS DO DEVOTION/QUIET TIME! Always try to take time to sit and talk with God, pray to Him, read His word, journal your thoughts, and try to listen for Him speaking to you. Lift up others around you, but also lift up yourself and your struggles to Him!

2. FIND A MENTOR! A mentor is somebody who has the battle scars, who has been in youth ministry, who has run the race and has been through the good and bad times. They can help you with one thing us young youth minister hot shots think we have, wisdom.

3. DON'T STRETCH THE TRUTH! We all know we shouldn't lie. It happens and people do, especially us, when it comes to youth ministry. We want to show we are averaging great numbers, souls are getting saved LEFT AND RIGHT, and you have to create and overflow room just for the extra people that come in. Don't do it. Be honest with yourself and trust that God is going to be there when 2 or 200 show up. Don't be discouraged by numbers. If you show that you are disappointed in low numbers, you may miss a great opportunity for the students that dedicated their time to show up. Remember, no youth means no job!

These are just simple things that can help encourage you along the way. There is no secret formula for youth ministry (if there was, would I be spilling out all this wisdom for free?). We must follow Christ and try to discern what He wants.

Have you ever tried to stretch the truth about your ministry to make yourself/ your youth group/church look better? What are you going through now that someone else may have gone through and can help you and encourage you through it? Leave some comments below and share some personal thoughts. You never know, someone else reading this blog may be able to help you or vice versa.

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