The Best Youth Worker
by: Dr. Bruce Goddard
For whatever reason, the Lord has unusually blessed our ministry to young people. As with anything in the Lord’s work, there can be no “I’ve got it figured out” or ” I know the answer.” After 35 years of pastoring and 40 years in ministry work, I can say that God does what He wants when He wants, with whom He wants, and how He wants.
With that said, let me mention conversations that happen regularly. I speak to pastors often who are looking for help in their church. One of the most frequent things I notice is how distant many pastors are from their young people.
Here is the normal scenario. A man starts a church or takes over a small church and begins to work. God begins to bless the man and his ministry, and young people are a part of those blessings. The pastor brings in some families and some young people without family, and the church enjoys some growth. The busy pastor brings in a paid or volunteer youth worker. The pastor now spends more time on other church ministries and less time with teens.
HERE IS THE PROBLEM AS I SEE IT
The pastor produced those teens. From families he met or bringing them in as individuals, the teens are his product and he is the best qualified to continue to reach their heart. The youth pastor has rarely produced one teen on his own. He is simply living off the ministry of the pastor. Go on and get mad at that statement, but before you say anything, count the young people in church because you met them and brought them. I am not saying the youth pastor is not a help, and I have been blessed with several of the most amazing men working with my young people, but remember who produced those teens and keep him involved.
So these teens, produced by the pastor, rarely get time with their pastor. The pastor is the most influential man in the church. The pastor is the one who reached these teens. In most cases, the humble pastor doubts his effectiveness with young people, and so allows a younger man to minister to them forgetting that God called HIM to lead these teens just as much as he was called to lead the adults of the church.
I know great preachers who travel the nation preaching to other teens in youth conferences who rarely get to speak to their own teens. Their teens deserve their pastor, and no one is going to stir the teens to serve God more than the man in the pulpit.
Get close to your teens. Go to their camps, even if for a day. I still attend almost all of our teen camps. I might go home for Wednesday night, but I return the next morning. At 59, I am not running all the games and crazy activities, but I am there, hanging around, preaching and being a part of their teen years. Go to their activities whenever possible. Go to their school and preach chapel, or if a public school, show up and visit them. I used to go to our public high school at lunch and meet our teens for an hour. Go to the public school and pick up a few teens and take them for ice cream and drop them off at home. I have made countless trips to public schools picking up teens and hanging out with them for the afternoon before bringing them to church on Wednesdays. You are not too busy, and you are not too old. Spend money on kids, take them to eat at a fast food place (at their expense) and they will love the time with you. I have surprised our teens by showing up at their costume parties in disguise. I have the teens over to my home a couple times a year. Last year, I spent New Year’s Eve with our teens. We ice skated for a couple hours, went to the beach and had big bonfire, then had two bus loads of teens to my home at midnight for food and fun. I organized a bus ride to a youth conference in Long Beach. I rode the bus with the teens, planned activities on the bus, moved around the bus constantly talking and visiting with teens. The youth workers made it obvious that it was me that set it up and made it all happen.
Remember that those teens are not yours, they are your responsibility to tie them to your pastor. Without the pastor, you would not have a youth department. For those who are paid a full-time salary, rarely do you have enough teens to occupy your day full-time. Get out soul-winning. Work on the buildings. Visit the senior citizens. All of this can be done with teens under each arm. Don’t play so much with teens; work with them.
Too many youth pastors are youth players, not youth workers.
Teach your teens to go soul winning, and go with them, showing them how to do it by YOU winning folks to Christ. I know full-time youth pastors working with thirty teens. That is not a full-time job unless you are the Christian school principal and bus director as well. You are loafing and need to get to work 50-70 hours a week like the men who pay your salary.
Our youth pastor has 100-150 teens, teaches in the school part-time, coaches football, organizes some of our church-wide activities, is involved in special music, runs a teen choir, teen soul winning, all teen activities, and he is new, just getting the hang of things, he will do more in time. (And he is doing this while still in recovery mode from two bouts with cancer.) Our former youth pastor did all of that and ran our bus ministry as well. Get off your computer, stop reading books and blogs by men who are not fundamental, stop going to so many ball games and golfing every week and get in the ministry. Until you are winning people regularly and producing something beside babysitting, you need to feel like you are on welfare.
There are two reasons to be on staff; to produce people in the pew and to produce people in the baptistry. It ought to bother you that the baptistry does not see any fruit from the youth department you run. It ought to bother you if there are no teen visitors in church.
The pastor needs time with teens, and he does not need permission from the youth pastor to do so. Show up any time you want pastor. Walk in and become the center of things or hang around the perimeter and talk with teens and let the youth workers care for food, games and clean up while you visit with teens. When the pastor shows up, the youth pastor needs to point everything towards the man of God.
Dr. Bruce Goddard
Faith Baptist Church