On the last two men’s retreats I went on, we held a Frisbee golf tournament. It was nothing official, just a dozen guys or so tramping about the campgrounds picking targets at will. I won both tournaments because I’m pretty spiritual and it’s a well known fact that God rewards the super holy with super awesome Frisbee skills. I digress.
What was nice about both of these tournaments was that no one invited the “intense guy.” Are you familiar with this guy? He’s the one that takes every game, activity or challenge as if it were a situation of life or death. He’ll punch an old man in the face if he loses at dominos, kick a game of Risk down a flight of stairs if things don’t head his way, and try to choke to death someone that won’t admit the word “Moops” on the trivia answer card is actually supposed to be written as “Moors.”
I’m completely fine with this guy, I think he often adds some excitement to some otherwise dull games, but for inexplicable reasons, he often volunteers to help out with the youth group.
There are three things that usually result from having an intense guy as a youth leader:
1. Someone gets hurt.
I’ve long held that at least one person should leave a retreat with a cast in order for it to be considered a successful retreat, but the intense guy always takes things to new levels. My favorite example of this involves apples and a guy named Ben. This guy Ben should have played professional baseball. He had an amazing arm and could hurl round, hard objects at speeds that must have approached 80 miles an hour. This was great for church softball games but bad for apple orchards. One night after a hay ride, some of us started throwing rotten apples at each other. It was all lighthearted and silly, until a hard red blur streaked by my head. My friends quickly ducked behind a wooden bin and peered around the corner. There, in the moonlight, we could see Ben, unloading apples like one of those pitching machines that they have at batting cages. Fortunately the intense guy usually chills out once someone gets hurt, so only one of us had to take a not rotten and soft, but unripe and hard, apple to the side of the head.
2. Someone gets insulted.
Often, the intense guy doesn’t like to admit that some of the teenagers in the youth group are better than him in certain sports. But it’s true. A 16-year old track star can run faster than a mid 30s accountant in most situations. And when such physical forces of reality come together, the intense guy is often forced to start verbally sparring instead. “Yeah, you’re faster, but my car is faster than you. Can you even drive? Do you have your own place? Can you stay out as late as you want?” It continues down this path until eventually the intense guy is saying things like “I can eat ice cream for dinner if I want to” and everyone kind of shuffles off, without making eye contact with him. This is not a pretty sight.
3. Someone gets fired.
Firing a volunteer is one of the most difficult situations ever. You can’t cut their pay, they’re working for free. You can’t make them stay later or come earlier, they’re giving you their time for free. You can’t ask them to take training or learn a new skill, they’re just trying to help out. But at some point you might have to fire an intense guy. There are a lot of theories on firing Christians and I might need to do a whole post on it. People don’t do a very good job of this. A friend recently posted a comment that said “I got fired last week. And my boss, who is a Christian, said, ‘You were here for a season and now it’s over.'” That’s horrible. The best way to get rid of an intense guy is to encourage him to try volunteering for another ministry. Tell him you feel that youth ministry is too easy and that he deserves a bigger challenge. If you make the food ministry sound like the Olympics of volunteering, he’ll be unable to resist the challenge.
I have to say that it doesn’t have to just be an intense guy. It can be a girl too. When I was in the 9th grade, our high school basketball team was 0-19. We lost every game. Which is awesome for a teenager’s self esteem. Our coach, who must have been a little bit crazy, decided we should scrimmage a girl’s team. They killed us. They were the state champions and just killed us. Part of the reason was that they were awesome athletes and all intense girls. Part of the reason was that as freshman boys, there was no way any of us were going to cover girls closely. We were covered in anxious sweat before the game even began. But then, none of us were intense.