Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Repost: Keys to Longevity

I’ve been in full-time youth ministry since 1988, and this upcoming March will celebrate my 15th anniversary at my current church, and I like to think they are still glad I’m hanging around.

As is often the case with these little articles, this week’s subject matter really deserves more time than we can give it. But here are three of the more significant things that I believe contribute to longevity in youth ministry.

Don’t Be Toolish: Is that a typo? Did I mean to write “foolish”? No. Youth workers fizzle out long before they should for all sorts of reasons, many of which fall into the category of “toolish behavior”; attitudes and actions that needn’t be present in the life of a Christian leader. Sadly the list of toolish youth worker behavior is long: Pride, using volunteers to your own end, favoring one type of student over others, being a promoter of self, breaking trust, constant bragging about growth of your youth group, building a ministry built around your personality, making the church know how lucky they are to have you, complaining about the long hours and low pay of youth ministry.

I could go on and on…but you get the point and, frankly, writing this is making me a little sad. Here’s the bottom line: Much of the toolish behavior I listed will help you be a temporary flash in the pan, but when the flash is over, your youth ministry career may be, too.

Practice The Art of Contentment: Many youth workers are so busy comparing their salary to the salary of the worship leader, the size of their budget to the youth ministry budget at the church down the road, their schedule to the schedule of their next door neighbor, and their talent to the “talent” of the big dogs in ministry, that they effectively ruin any chance of enjoying their current ministry season. Don’t do this to yourself. I repeat, DON’T do this to yourself! Comparing breeds discontentment, and discontentment will ruin your ability to enjoy longevity. Notice I said, “enjoy longevity” because the truth is I have met a lot of bitter, unsatisfied, unfulfilled youth workers who have been at it for a long, long time. But because of their attitudes of comparison and discontentment, they aren’t enjoying the ride.

Be Secure in Your Calling: “When are you going to get a real job?”, “When are you going to ‘move up’ into another area of the church?”, “What do you do all day?”, “When are you going to get a job that pays a little more?” I’ve heard those questions over and over again for almost 25 years…from my wife! Okay, the part about Rachel isn’t true; in fact, she has been a steady voice of reason over the years as I’ve heard these questions countless of times from other people, and a few times from myself. But at the end of the day, I know this: For this season of my life, until God gives me clear direction about something else, I am very confident and secure in the fact that he has set me apart for this goofy thing called youth ministry. Others don’t understand it, and at times I question it, but this sense of security in doing what I believe God has asked me to do has helped me from jumping ship for other opportunities.

Added Jan. 11th- Part #2- "Keys to Longevity" (* also great stuff!)