Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Can Youth Pastors Learn Anything From Barney Stinson? PLEASE...

(Spoiler Alert! If you are a fan of HIMYM and have not watched this week's episode, this post does contain a spoiler. Just so you know...)

Wisdom and inspiration can often come from the strangest of places. On this past Monday's installment of the TV show How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) yet another long hidden secret was revealed. Barney Stinson (played by the amazing Neil Patrick Harris) finally (under very bizarre circumstances) had to tell his friends what he actually does for a living. It it well known that Barney works for Goliath National Bank; it was unknown as to what he does to earn the "16 crap-loads" of money they pay him each year. For years anytime he has been asked what his job actually is, Barney would smile and say with a pleasant dismissiveness- "PLEASE." There had been zero hints about what that meant until this past Monday night, when it was revealed that P.L.E.A.S.E. was in fact an acronym used to disguise the fact that he was in charge of signing documents of questionable origin and intent to protect the bosses at the evil empire of a bank that employs him. Literally, his job is to PLEASE...

I spent a lot of years working for churches, and I can tell you that quite often Youth Pastors feel like their job is to PLEASE. You often want to please the youth, their parents, your senior pastor, the church custodian, committees you may work with and your family- and if you're not careful you find yourself trying to do things to PLEASE God as well, instead of simply giving Him glory, honor and praise. These desires can often control the way we do ministry, and not in a good way. But as I thought more about the HIMYM episode and that acronym. it occurred to me that the selfish, womanizing Barney Stinson might have come across a way to help those in ministry PLEASE in a good way. It seemed like an odd revelation. After all, Barney wrote The Bro Code and The Playbook, not 6 Easy Steps To a Successful Youth Ministry. But there was something there. So try this acronym on for size...

* P is for PRAY. Youth Pastors should be praying for students, their families and for God to move in their lives every single day. Scripture says to "pray without ceasing." True story.
* L is for LISTEN. Most teenagers need adults to talk to, adults they can trust, adults they believe care about them. There are very few people who take time to listen. Everyone in ministry needs to be on that list. 83% will not cut it...
* E is for ENCOURAGE. All youth pastors should be cheerleaders, helping to build up their students in the body of Christ. Always encourage; never tear down. They get plenty of that already. Students need to know that they are loved, and that Jesus can use them to do legendary things...
* A is for ACCEPT. Teenagers are often brutally unaccepting of one another. Those in ministry need to be for them like Jesus is with each of us, accepting them for who they are while loving youth too much to leave them where we find them. And that acceptance needs to be unconditional, or it is NOT the way of Jesus
* S is for SERVE. Ministry in the name of Christ is, at its heart, a service industry. Jesus charges each of us to feed his sheep, to care for the the lost, the lame and the hurting and to wash each  others feet. We should not approach ministry with the attitude that we are the educated, spiritual giants who have so much to offer our young apprentices. Ministers should be the very people modeling service and humility to those we have the privilege of impacting.
* E is for EVANGELIZE. Not in the "beat a kid over the head with a 10 pound bible" kind of way- not that I know anyone who has a 10 pound bible- but in the true sense of the word! Our words and our lives should constantly reflect the Good News of who Jesus was, what he did, and what that can mean in each of lives. Students need to know there is a reason WHY you do those first 5 things on this list. My go-to scripture verse for my ministry was always 1 Thessalonians 2:8 - "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share not only the gospel with you, but our very lives as well, because you had become so dear to us."  Is there any better definition of ministry?

It is my belief that if more youth pastors understood that their real job description is to PLEASE, their impact on the students around them would by greatly multiplied. I've said it here 100 times before and will continue to preach it until my dying breath, but ministry to students is not about programs, sermons, games or trips. All of those things are means to an end. And that end is relationships with other students and with caring adults that lead to a better understanding of what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. And this Barney Stinson inspired acronym is a great place to start.

So youth pastors and others in ministry, the next time someones asks you the infamous "What do you actually do?" question, just smile at them, shrug playfully, and say "PLEASE." It's gonna be a thing...

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous1/22/2014

    Dang that's good. As Barney himself might say, "Challenge accepted!" ~ Chris Cooper

    1. LOL thanks Chris! You're a true Bro!

  2. Anonymous1/22/2014

    This is great! I am a youth pastor in a Catholic church, and a first time visitor. I love HIMYM and especially Barney, and your new acronym sums up perfectly the way we should be doing student ministry. Thank you for sharing! - Katie Coulson in New Mexico

    1. Katie, bless you and your ministry and thanks for stopping by! Glad this rang a bell with you!

  3. Anonymous1/22/2014

    That is a great list of attributes for anyone who works with people in any setting. So few people take time to actually care about those around them. A youth pastor (well, YOU!) took time to do all of those things for me when I was a teenager and it changed my life. I hope I am paying all of those things forward. Thank you, Carl.

    1. I am so glad you felt all of those things from our student ministry back in the day. Thank you for your kind words.

  4. Anonymous1/22/2014

    Wow! What a powerful post. And I LOVE all of the sneaky little HIMYM references too. Great job! - Rachel

    1. I was hoping they didn't all go unnoticed! Thanks, Rachel!


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