Friday, July 10, 2015

Flashback Friday: 10 Things I DON'T Miss About Youth Ministry

Hanging with great folks like these- that's the stuff I DO miss!
Happy Flashback Friday! I spent 28 years in student ministry before losing that privilege in 2007. If you have read much of this blog in the past, then you know how much I loved my job and how much I still miss it. Being involved in the spiritual lives of teenagers and their parents, helping them discover the love and grace of Jesus, was a great blessing to me. However... having been away from it for over 8 years now, I have to admit that there are some things that I do not miss. Allow me to share a few of those things with you today, in no particular order.  

1)  That Smell - I loved taking trips with my students, but no amount of claiming that there is "joy in the journey" can overcome the stench that begins to overpower the inside of every church van on every youth trip. Sometimes it was body odor, other times just a collection of smells from various foods and feet. But most often, it was a blend of all those things combined with a substantial amount of "natural gas." After one trip I took our van to a professional car wash to get it cleaned inside and out, only to be told, "I don't think that smell is ever coming out..." I don't miss that smell.
2)  Church Boards & Finance Committees - This one is simple. Business men & women rarely understood me, and I rarely understood them. Plus I hate committee meetings. If the meetings were not with youth or the Youth Ministry Team (best meetings ever!) then I really wasn't interested. True story...
3)  Habitually Late Parents - I'm not talking about the parents who get stuck in traffic or forget the time on occasion. I'm talking about the ones who NEVER pick their student up until at least 30 minutes after a youth event has ended. Trust me when I tell you that kids who get left like that are seldom the ones you want any extra time with after a full day of work. One particular FUMC-Kissimmee youth whose parents always left him an extra hour comes to mind, but I'll be nice...
4)  The Blame Game - If something in a church gets spilled, broken, stolen or lost, then it's only a matter of time before someone blames the youth ministry. At one church I served an 80 year old woman claimed to have left a scarf in a room that we used for a Wednesday night study group. The scarf disappeared, and she wanted the Senior Pastor to question the kids about who took her scarf. And that's just one example out of thousands! Something go wrong?  Blame the youth- or more often the Youth Pastor!
5)  "We've Never Done It That Way Before" - Also goes by the name, "We don't do things like that here." Every church has a person, a committee or an adult Sunday School class that responds to every new idea in that manner. And since student ministry requires new ideas and new methods to stay fresh, there is often constant conflict. It is a point of great pride with me that I never once yelled at such people, "Will you just SHUT UP!?!?!"  
6)  The 3 Girl Conflicts - I learned from my own experiences as a teenager that anytime you have more than 2 teenage girls attempting to be be best friends at the same time, you have a problem. I could walk you through each of my stops on my youth ministry trail and give you examples, but that would be cruel. But looking back, it was always some of my very favorite girls who would end up in these nasty conflicts. One of the 3 is always left out. One of the 3 is always angry. And one of the 3 spends a whole lot of time complaining to the Youth Pastor. The headaches are coming back even as I type...
7)  Recitals - Spending three hours at a dance recital or music recital to see or hear one student do one thing is something I often did, but will never miss. And I REALLY don't miss beginner violin recitals...
8)  Macho Men - In every group I served there were always a couple of guys who felt like youth group was not masculine enough for them, so they would try to compensate in other ways. During games, they would play rough and show off. They would bully smaller kids. They would disrespect the girls in the group. And they would not participate in the bible studies or other learning activities. This type of guy was always irritating to me, and on more that a few occasions I found myself in their faces. But I never tossed one out a window. Ahhh- that was the dream!
9)  Dating Relationships - I never liked it when youth group kids were dating each other, because when they broke up it always seemed like one of them got custody of the group and the other wound up feeling shunned. Plus, you always had to deal with what was "appropriate behavior" when you had couples at events. At one point I tried a guideline that said, "Don't engage in exclusive behavior.  In other words, never do with one person what you would not be willing to with everyone else." I am fairly certain I had a couple of guys in that group who took that a bit too literally...  :)  
10) Saying Goodbye - I was never good at letting go of the students I worked with over the years. I hated to leave them when the time came to go - I always dreamed of taking all of my students and Youth Ministry Team members with me from one church to the next. I hated when they left me, even to go to college. They were all a part of my family, and many of them still are today. I was never good at letting them go, and maybe I should have been. But I don't miss saying goodbye...

So there are 10 things I do not miss. I didn't include "cleaning up the messes we made" because making those messes is one of the things I really miss- so it all evens out! The lists of things I do miss can be found in the other 1800 or so posts on this blog. Have a blessed day!

Because of Jesus,


  1. Amen on #9, brother! It's weird b/c the opposite sex draws a lot of kids into youth group, and I've seen plenty eventually come to Christ from that initial seed. And ideally you'd like for your students, if they're going to date, date someone you know is a guy/girl of strong faith. Seems logical, but it rarely ends well. We had a couple of our older kids get together, they broke up and it nearly unraveled everything we accomplished in about 4 years in terms of camaraderie and togetherness. The room became two halves, and that was a serious struggle.

    Shoutout for #3 as well! :D What made that doubly frustrating was those kids in my group were the music minister's kids. C'MON MAN! haha

  2. Drew I had one group where about 50% of the group were cousins. Really cut into the dating problem, and I loved it! And just generally speaking, staff kids were a whole different set of issues. Often great kids- but an adventure for sure!


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