“Do you ever think you’ll be a real minister someday?”
If I had a dollar for every time someone said this to a youth minister I could probably train a worship eagle to hunt and kill the pigeon that pooped in the mouth of the Kings of Leon bass player, forcing them to cancel their St. Louis show this weekend after only three songs. (In pigeon society this event has already been labeled, “The greatest day ever.”)
Alas, no one pays me money when youth ministers get insulted. That’s a shame because it happens. We think youth ministers are goofballs. They’re good at kickball and pranks that involve whipped cream. And once a year we let them preach on youth Sunday.
But I think in a lot of ways, they’ve got the toughest job at a church. In fact, here are five reasons we should never consider our youth ministers silver medal ministers.
1. Liability forms
They should just call these, “Get out of jail free,” cards, because that’s what they are. When youth ministers plan a retreat, they’ve got to collect liability forms from each student. Why? Because someone is going home with a broken leg. That’s just going to happen. Someone will jump off a sand dune, throw an apple at someone’s head or get stitches. That never happens to senior pastors. Not once did my minister dad come home from an elder retreat and say, “Yeah, Hank Johnson tied a fake snake over the bathroom door and Mary Smith freaked out and broke her hand slamming the door shut.”
Youth ministers have to be relevant across multiple generations. Senior pastors don’t to the same degree. When my dad mentioned Seinfeld in a sermon, he was mentioning something that as a 40 year old he liked. It’s different for youth ministers. They have to understand and communicate in their own generation and their student’s generation. What does that mean? Basically, you’re going to be forced to pick a team in the Twilight series. If you like jean shorts and sit ups, go Team Jacob. If you want to be an emo Robert Smith kind of vampire, go Team Edward.
Youth groups are harder to speak to than the average Sunday congregation. I learned this recently while speaking to some students. After talking for about four minutes, I noticed that there was a kid asleep in the crowd. And not just a little asleep, he was sprawled out. Teens will fall asleep if you don’t bring it instantly. They also won’t fake laugh. Adults will give you “courtesy laughs.” Not teenagers. If it ain’t funny, they ain’t laughing. Teens, in a good way, make you work for it.
I don’t know if it’s technically a rule, but poor youth ministers often end up being forced to perform cheestastical dramas on mission trips. Our youth group did a dance routine to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Maybe your youth group had puppets or handbells. You might have even had a mime troupe at your church. (I would name mine, “Gloves of Love.”) Regardless of the variation, chances are, your youth minister had to not only do his/her regular job but also be skilled at the performing arts.
5. Orange Drink & Pizza
I think youth ministers have a lifespan that is eight years shorter than the general population due to all the ghetto orange drink and pizza they are forced to consume. And it’s always the kind of pizza where you can’t tell if you’re eating a piece or have just started biting the box. The pizza is thin, covered with a sandpaper like layer of cheese, and crafted with crusts that could kill a man like an aborigine boomerang.
There are probably a billion reasons it’s difficult to be a youth minister, but one of the reasons that it’s not, is pretty simple:
This generation has more potential to spread the gospel than any other generation in the history of mankind.
It’s true, teenagers today will communicate more, share more and talk more than ever before. Twenty years ago, when a student heard a great sermon, they maybe told two friends at school. Now, they post a link to it on facebook. They tweet about it. They blog about it. Your sermon can go viral in about 12 seconds. The ability for this next generation to be salt and light is unbelievable.
I thank God for Kurt Andre my youth minister growing up.
If you had a youth minister you’re thankful for too, give them a shout out today. Forward them post and comment with this:
“I thank God for ________________.”