What youth workers can learn from Donald Trump

Even if you have been living under a rock, and only watched the tiniest bit of the news recently, you could not escape the political chaos that is happening within the the Republican Party.  And the reason for this chaos is because the current front runner in the GOP primary is, in none other, than Donald Trump. 

No matter what you think about him or about politics in general, as a youth worker, it would serve you well to watch and learn.  

Combover aside, I see a striking similarity between many of my youth worker friends and The Donald.  And, unfortunately, the parallel isn't a good one.  

Donald Trump has tapped into some significant angst among the republican primary voter.  They are tired of The Man, tired of not being heard, tired of politics as usual, and tired of a lack of authenticity from their political leaders. So Donald Trump has filled in this vacuum with his bombastic, gritty, un-PC, Anti-establishment, take no prisoners candidacy.  And it is resonating.  

But anyone who is truly paying attention, watching the money, watching the true power brokers, knows that Trump's rising star is about to end.  He rose to fame being raw, unedited, and never backing down.  But these traits are going to be his undoing when it is time for people to pull the lever for their commander and chief.  You want to listen to Trump blow up his interviewer, but you don't want his finger on the button of our nuclear arsenal.  

But what does this have to do with the youth worker you ask?  Great question!  The candidacy of Donald Trump, unfortunately, parallel many carriers of the youth workers I know.  

Many youth workers get into this business because hey genuinely love Jesus and love students, and would love for students to come to love Jesus.  This is all good and noble.

But the second they start working in a church context they realize that there are politics, policies, two faced leaders, inauthentic people working the system.  They realize that their church, which should be the bride of Christ, is actually a microcosm of the political world we experience on MSNBC or FoxNews.  

Before long, they start to push back.  They speak boldly, They don't polish their theology or their rhetoric.  In fact they find that the church responses well when they preach and teach for that very reason.  These youth workers and the people in their church are tired of the careful exposition, the hedging, the trying to not offend language of their current leaders, and the youth worker's "Truth Telling" is a breath of fresh air.  

Many Youth Workers have made it their trade to be "idealistic," "authentic" and "relevant."

And because of these values youth workers dress a certain way, love that they are "edgy" in their talks with students and to push the boundaries, all for the sake of the gospel.  And the best part, is that many of these youth workers are becoming more and more effective.  

But as they find their star rising, it will serve my young youth worker friends well to watch The Donald and watch those other candidates compared to him, and watch what happens over time.  

What you will see is that people only want the bombastic, truth teller, who peddles in authenticity for a short while.  And for as refreshing as the moment is, over the long haul, people want their leaders to be calm, measured, deep, and nuanced, 

I get it, your lead pastor and lay leaders are boring.  They are politicians.  But they are where they are and have the leadership they have because they have gone slow, built grass root support, and have proven their character over decades, not months.  

Leadership is harder than it looks.  There are many moving parts and many decisions that go unseen.  But the result of many good decisions and consensus building behind the scenes allows the ball to move forward without blowing up everyone who disagrees.  

Most people have no idea all that goes into making decisions in a church context.  The theological issues, the cultural issues, the budget restraints, and the varied passions among the pastor and the leaders all need to be taken into account before decisions are made. This means decisions take time, aren't sexy, and often require compromise.  

Idealism, authenticity, and relevance are important, and they are only part of the equation.  Don't let these values cause you to be shortsighted and over step your leadership and authority.  

So, if you long to be more than a flash in the pan in your ministry context, or in your ministry career, watch Donald Trump, watch his rise, and watch his fall.  Take note, and don't let the momentary popularity go to your head.  Play the long game, love your students, serve your church, and you will be able to serve Jesus in vocational ministry for many years to come!