As young leaders, we buy in to lies a lot. Here’s a few I’ve seen, even caught myself in (particularly in the youth ministry world).
1. This is the way it’s supposed to be done. I used to actually think that all youth ministries / churches were supposed to do it one way. In college I was involved in a great youth ministry (some of my close friends work there today). Unfortunately, though, when you’re a part of something great, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what you’re doing is the way it should be done. I remember talking with some of our students a while back who had visited another youth ministry. They said things like, “They just don’t know how to do it right. They don’t get it.” I remember agreeing with them before realizing what I was doing. When our view of the church is, “These guys get it, but these other guys don’t,” we’ve missed it.
I guess I’m extra aware of this lately… The local youth pastors in my area all (well, not all) get together regularly for coffee / lunch and relationship. At the table are a Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Non-Denom, Covenant, Baptist, even a couple of us Charismatics (cray-cray, I know). There’s a genuine sense of camaraderie amongst all of us, even though we’re all so different. They probably all think I’m a fool, but at least they’ll still share a table with me. What saddens me is the guys who continually decline (if they even respond). The ones who don’t come? They’ve got the corner on how things should be done, and won’t associate with those who are different than them.
It’s often – not always – the larger or more distinct we grow, the smaller our view of THE church becomes. Let’s not let this be the case. Let’s celebrate the Kingdom, which is full of all shapes and sizes of church.
2. Everyone should be like me. Oh, the horror.
3. Bigger/louder is better. One of the things my Dad always talked about is “finding God in the opposite.” In youth ministry we’re all about creating environments with the goal that students would connect with God. This is a GOOD thing. But we have to realize that it’s such a contrast to the rest of life, and it can’t be the only thing that we’re offering. Are we teaching students to need noise (music / lights / environments) to connect with God, or are we teaching them to connect with him wherever they go?
4. Treat everyone the same. I’m all for equal opportunity. I think we should always see people as equal in their value. One person is never more important than another. I also don’t think we should write people off based on a lack of outward potential. However, I think we do our ministries, students and ourselves a disservice if we think everyone should get an equal amount of attention, care, time, development and promotion from us. That is absolutely not sustainable.
My wife and I have a group of student leaders that we work closely with. We spend more time with them than we do others, know them better than others, and are more aware of what’s happening in their lives. There are plenty of people we don’t really know, and honestly probably never will. Is this fair? Not really, but that’s not what maters. What matters is that I am intentionally investing into a small sphere of people that will be able to carry the baton when I move on. By treating everyone fairly, I’m modeling unhealthy leadership to our leaders, handicapping their ability to touch the ones I never will. Early on in youth ministry (and I’m still pretty young) it was so easy for me to get stuck on trying to do everything. Anyone who wanted my attention got it. Anyone who had drama knew I was the one to solve it. I was being pulled in many directions, not realizing the ones who should be getting my attention, weren’t. By being the guy, I’m telling my leaders, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” Instead, I want to empower those around me to find their favorites. The ones they click with that they can invest in.
5. The little stuff doesn’t matter. It does. I hear a lot of, “You know, as long as I love Jesus and tell these kids about Him, the other stuff doesn’t really matter.” In reality, it’s often the subtleties and nuances – things people can’t really put their finger on – that have the biggest impact. Environment matters. Excellence matters. Words matter. Dynamics matter. How you carry yourself matters. Attitudes matter (working on this one). The people you talk about matters. How you talk about the Church matters. How you talk about God REALLY matters. Having cold, name-brand pop instead of Safeway Select® matters. The straw that broke the camel’s back probably wasn’t very heavy, but it BROKE A CAMEL’S BACK! That’s CRAZY! The small things matter. *I’ll probably elaborate on this one in a whole post soon*