These stat are a little scary (mostly because I believe they are true). Fellow pastors and ministers, be on close guard of you time, family and personal rest. Congregation members, could I suggest you all be on the watch for warning signs of burnout in your pastors, and if seen, be part of the solution not part of the problem.
One of the scariest stat lines: 70% of youth workers say they have NO close friends. Yikes.
Watch out for this and many other warning signs that are all to often in ministry.
Is your teaching/preaching effective? Great. But even with the most dynamic teacher on stage every week, teenagers still learn more through seeing who you really are and how you really live.
Here are my thoughts on 5 things student pastors can’t fully teach from a stage, but MUST teach with their lives.
- A Genuine Love for the Word: If you don’t genuinely love the scripture, your teenagers will see straight through your lame attempts. If you gush scripture at every opportunity, they will see that too. Teach how to memorize and cherish God’s word to your students, not by telling them to do such, but by memorizing and cherishing it yourself! A group will never exceed the level of their leader. Learn to cherish the bible of yourself and watch your group follow suite.
- A Real Love for People: When you interact with students outside your cozy youth room, what example do you set for the teens watching your every move? Set the standard by loving the unlovable. Teach by example by genuinely being concerned for others and pushing your group to do the same. How impactful would it be if while pumping gas in route on a youth trip, you took a teen aside gave them some money and told them to go inside the store and pay for the gas of that frazzled single mom on the next pump over? I feel confident saying, your leadership in that moment would permanently change that teenager! Take the lead! Really love people!
- Be Humble and Teachable: Admit it! We aren’t perfect. When you mess up, the opportunity has arisen to show how a real follower of Christ owns up to their mistakes and makes biblical steps toward forgiveness and reconciliation. By modeling humility and a teachable heart you will show a generation that is saturated with pride how a real Christians should act. These moments are not fun, but gain you great respect by responding in a mature and biblical manner. By living a life of humility you will earn the right to speak to teenagers in their moments of need.
- Have an Imitable Faith: The way you handle your faith should be possible for teenagers to put into practice in their own lives. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” As teens watch the way you live, do they see the fundamentals of faith in a way that makes it clear what they should be doing? Do they see you praying? Do they see you correctly handling the scripture? Do they see a love for talking about Jesus? Make your faith a model for them to follow! Don’t cheat them into thinking it’s about degrees on the wall or charisma on the stage? Not all people will have those. But all can love Jesus in a practical, everyday way. Are you and I showing that way?
- True Loyalty in a Fickle Generation: Teenagers need to see stability modeled. In a culture with 50+% divorce rate sometime that is not seen at home. Be the model of how to love your spouse. Be the model on supporting your senior pastor. Remember (and use) a teenager’s name the next time you see them after their first visit. Show your group that some things are truly important in life and it goes way beyond your favorite sports team. Longevity in youth ministry is a rare thing. I’ve heard it said that the best ministry comes after 6 years. When every student in your ministry is a product of your teaching alone you will see the fruit of your labor! Hang in there. Be loyal to what God has called you to.
Praying you will teach these things and more to the teenagers in your area of influence.
Your fellow worker in the field, Adam
Ministry can be hard. It is taxing emotionally, spiritually, and even physically (you know lock-ins will send you to an early grave). When you work with teenagers you never know when one will show up unannounced. You never know when they will text a deeply personal struggle…and you have to respond. (usually text won’t do to straighten it out) But how hard should we push to allow opportunity for the Gospel to penetrate the lives of our students?
Spurgeon has something to say that young student pastors need to hear.
“People said to me years ago, ‘You will break your body down with preaching ten times a week,’ and the like. Well, if I have done so, I am glad of it. I would do the same again. If I had fifty bodies I would rejoice to break them down in service of the Lord Jesus Christ.
You young men that are strong, overcome the wicked one and fight for the Lord while you can. You will never regret doing all that lies in for you for our blessed Lord and Master.”
– Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “For the Sick and Afflicted,” 1876