the elite youth pastor

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In ministry I have found that there are two kinds of people, the ones with the big ideas, and the ones who actually do the work to implement them. Over the last 15 years in student ministry I have noticed a startling trend in the attitudes of my fellow youth workers, and in myself. We have become the first grouping of people. We have become entitled and are above the common tasks of maintaining a student ministry. When I was first hired as a vocational youth worker, I vividly remember getting the keys to the church, and could not believe that I was about to get paid to spend my time loving on students. I was overjoyed as I looked down the job description. Planning youth groups, good. Taking students on trips, good. Contact work, good. So by the time I got to the bottom of my job description, I did’t even notice a line that would seem out of place today.

It simply said, “and other tasks assigned by the head of staff.” What were those other tasks? I didn’t care, because I had a job, doing the thing I loved, as part of a church staff.

Over the 7 plus years I worked at that church, those tasks involved;

  • stuffing my own envelops, as well as helping with all church mailings
  • all my own custodial work for my programs
  • vacuuming the sanctuary between christmas eve services
  • setting up and tearing down chairs for women’s ministry gatherings
  • climbing on the roof to stop leaks
  • helping elderly couples move
  • move things in and out of storage
  • sweeping leaves after storms
  • unclogging toilets
  • even cleaning up diarrhea on the sidewalk.

Over the years, as I have gotten more important, I realized that other people should have the pleasure of doing these tasks. you see, I need to spend my time on more important things, like meeting with kids, dreaming big dreams, and planning events and programs. But the actual implementation of these ideas and programs should be done by others, administrative assistants, interns, parents, volunteers, or custodians.

You see, over the last decade or so, student ministry professionals have been taught that our profession is that, a profession. We are to be treated like professionals. We have a clear job description and we stick to, we watch our hours and comp time so we don’t get taken advantage of, and we are not to be asked to help with things outside our area of ministry. "Other jobs assigned,” are no longer part of the equation. And sadly, many of us youth workers actually believe the hype.

The truth is that no matter how “professional” our job gets, we are called into ministry more then called into a profession. And the ministry that we are called into is the ministry of Jesus Christ. He is our leader, our example. Jesus doesn’t need us. we are quickly replaceable. Jesus does allow us to share in his ministry, and that is a gift, not a right. Jesus, more than anyone, deserved to be the big idea person, but instead, he humbled himself and became a servant to all.

If Jesus isn’t above serving others, why are we? Maybe we need to die to some of our professionalism and become once again, servants. To not just assign tasks, but to roll up our sleeves and work along side our team. Our ministries happen because we have been blessed by a team of people. Some of them are paid, but most volunteer their time. Many of them have real jobs where they are real professionals. And after a full work day and a full work week, they come and serve our ministry with joyful hearts.

Our teams are not here to make us look good, or to even make our jobs easier. Our teams are amazing people whom god has called to love on students and walk with them through this crazy season of life. You see, it is not about us at all. We are not professionals who are building our own kingdom. We are servants who facilitate ministry. We should live to serve our team and our students.

So this christmas, I want to take my hat off to my volunteers and say thank you. Thank you for giving up nights with your family. Thank you for sacrificing your clean cars and houses. Thank you for investing your time, your money, and most importantly, your hearts to our students. Thank you for your help with the shopping, mailing, hosting, setting up, and cleaning of our weekly programs.

Unfortunately, with all your hard work, you have made me look good. And somewhere along the way, I have started to believe the press. This ministry happens because of you! Please forgive me for the times I take you for granted and treat you as subjects instead of partners. I love you and am thankful that God has put you in my life and in the lives of our students.

Jesus, help me die to my professionalism, my rights, my status, and become more like you!

“Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.” Phil 2:5-7