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How to Keep a Youth Guy: ten ways my church encourages me to stick around

youthpastorThe current reality of tenure in youth ministry is atrocious.  I’ve see youth guys come and go at a rapid rate since I started in the ministry and have mourned the losses to my fellow churches.  I have been at my church for almost 8 years now as the Student Pastor (official title).  I serve at First Baptist Church in a small town south of Houston Texas.  Last weekend I was privileged to stay with some great friends and through the course of our conversation it came to light that their church has not been able to keep a youth pastor for more than 2 years.  They asked me why?  Why is it that Youth Pastors leave so soon?  What can they do to help them stay?  How do we change the paradigm when the average tenure for a youth pastor is 17 months and 3 years for a senior pastor?  (I know, you’ll find different numbers everywhere.)

Well, my church is awesome!  So I thought I’d share with you 10 things they do that encourage me to stay.  They are not in any particular order.

  1.        Treat the youth pastor the same as all the other pastors.  When my church looks at me, they see a pastor (or at least that’s what they communicate in their discussions with me).  I am asked about theological issues and Biblical issues by youth and adults.  I am asked how I would structure things and my input is valued as a premium.  Church members listen when I give instruction and I don’t have to fight for authority.  When I speak, the members grant me the same respect and gravity that they would my fellow pastors.  So respect your youth pastor, he’ll stay longer.
  2.        Make sure your staff gets along.  As a congregation you can give them opportunity to get away together.  This will breed fellowship among the leaders that is invaluable.  Nothing will kill a youth pastor quicker than an unbalanced and contentious staff relationship.  If your senior pastor micro-manages your youth pastor, he will leave.  If your staff treats the youth pastor like he is second fiddle or a child and refuses to take what he is saying seriously, he will leave.  Now, to be clear, there are youth guys who fit the stereotype mold and they might need to be kicked a little by their other pastors.  But, most of us are hard-working, have some semblance of what makes a good leader, and we do what needs to be done.  My church provides time for the staff to get away and enjoy each other and we are very connected as a result.  I frequently feel as though I am serving with brothers who are laboring along-side me.  I am never second fiddle and they include me in decisions.  I am not treated as a child, but as a brother.  We are colleagues and friends, and that’s what most youth pastors want and need in a staff.
  3.        Help without being asked.  Assume he needs you to do what you notice needs to be done and then go let him know you want to do it and do it without needing him.  This doesn’t happen all the time, but my church is great about helping when it looks like I need help.  One of my favorite memories was when some adults came to me and said, “we love your emphasis on teaching our students, we see this need, we’re going to do it for you.”  That was an incredible blessing.  Take note of what your Student Pastor does well and fill in the gaps without being asked.  If we don’t want you to, we’ll tell you.  While this is awkward it is far better than standing back and being upset at him for not asking for help.  By nature Youth pastors tend to think that they are supposed to do EVERYTHING.  When you come along-side them and just start doing the work, it frees them up to focus on what is important.  My church is awesome at this!
  4.        Pay him the same scale that you pay the other ministers.  A horrific reality of youth ministry is the pay scale.  I know of Pastors who make well over $100,000 serving with youth pastors who make less than $30,000 with no benefits!   This is an atrocious wrong.  My church pays me well and the rest of our staff is paid well too.  Pay your youth guy equitably and you’ll see marked improvement in his attitude toward the position.  I know a youth guy that makes $25,000 a year and is expected to work 60 hours a week (we counted them) under the supervision of a pastor who makes $75,000 a year, has less education, less experience in ministry, works a flat 40 hours a week, and has all benefits paid.  Needless to say, I have his resume if any of you are looking for a hard working youth guy.
  5.        Don’t ask your youth pastor when he is going to get a real pastor job.  You may mean well, implying that he is a great leader or preacher and you think he should take a greater leadership position.  But your complement comes with a devaluing of the position he is already in.  We are pastors already.  Value the position he is in as well as the job he does in it.  Treat the position as a permanent one and do not assume a corporate ladder mentality.  Most of us are not seeking to climb the invisible ladder of supposed success.  Most of us are just happy to work in a church and genuinely feel as though God wants us where we are.  So remember, he is called youth “pastor” because he is already a pastor.  Complement his preaching or leadership, ask him about his future, but be careful not to assume he is only there to step his way up.
  6.        Have his family to your home for dinner and/or go to his house.  Relationships are incredibly valuable for youth guys.  We don’t have many deep relationships because our career is built around relationships with 12-18 year-olds.  Believe it or not, hanging out with a bunch of 16 year-olds on your free nights is not as fun as it sounds.  The only adult fellowship most Youth Guys get is the staff at the church.  Student pastors need adult fellowship beyond the staff.  You can accommodate this need by providing a small group opportunity for him and his family or you can just be intentional and eat with the guy.  Invest your time in your youth pastor as a friend and he will be much more likely to rethink leaving.  Another positive to this is that he will take your advice more readily.  We are much more likely to listen to people who know us and who we know well.  So, love your youth guy and he’ll stay longer.  There is a particular man at my church who took me aside when I got here and said, “what do you need in ministry.”  I told him I needed a friend.  It is partly because of him I have turned down some positions, so that I could maintain that friendship.
  7.        Submit to his leadership in public and discuss disagreements with a humble heart in private.  By nature of the position, youth ministry is filled with leaders who are self-conscious about their abilities to lead and insecure about their authority.  We are very aware of the criticism of others and are extremely sensitive to disrespect for our position.  If you have a disagreement with your youth pastor, model humility for him.  He needs to learn humility, model it by submitting yourself to his leadership, even if it seems unnecessary to do so.  In doing this you will show him what humble leadership is, and will encourage him to learn well how to lead well.  He will stay longer.  My experience at FBC has been loaded with people who will submit to my decisions even if they think I am wrong.  They will respect my position and give me latitude to make mistakes.  As a result, I am still here.
  8.        Forgive his mistakes; he will make a lot of them… especially if he is good at his job.  Let me explain.  If you’re a youth pastor who loves students, you’re going to take some risks.  You’re going to over-plan, under-budget, and offend EVERYONE in the process.  (if you’re a youth guy reading this and you haven’t offended someone yet, you must be young or dense.) But these mistakes are done out of love for the students and a deep desire for Jesus’ name to be made great.  He is not intentionally offending anyone, unless he has stated that offense is his objective (lol, sometimes it’s necessary.) So, he is going to make mistakes.  He is going to be obnoxious.  And he is going to fail you.  He needs to know, failure is ok.  He needs to have the freedom to do so.  Let him run with abandon after a new idea and let it blow up in his face!  Let him fail and you will have a much stronger youth guy in the position.  He needs the freedom to exercise his creativity and the tenderness to be taught when he fails.
  9.        Don’t give him pointless tasks that are unrelated to his passions and/or job.  I remember my first weeks at FBC.  I was incredibly nervous I was going to upset my senior pastor because I was unaware of some unknown task I needed to do.  I was sure that I was going to be asked to set up tables, organize a party, fix some problem.  I was very concerned and was even getting jittery about it.  I walked into my senior pastor’s office and asked “Jim, what is it you want me to do!?”  Jim Doyle sat back in his chair and said, “Teach our students the Bible and run a comprehensive youth program.”  In a rather irritated tone I asked, “when are you going to ask me to set up chairs, or plan a party!?”  Jim smirked, “I’m not… I want you to teach the Bible and run a comprehensive youth program.”  After clarifying my job description, I left his office before any tasks could be added.  It was then I realized how much FBC values this position.  I’m not asked to do menial tasks.  FBC asks me to do things that are related to my job and I’m not asked to do things that are inconsequential.  Often I am told that I don’t need to do certain things because they would take time away from the teaching of the Word or the Students.  Find your youth pastor’s passion and assign him any extra tasks that may relate to that passion, otherwise, let him work without any additional weight.
  10.    Overlook offenses.  Youth pastors can be extremely busy dealing with students and are incredibly emotionally involved with their students.  Further, good youth pastors are much more concerned with your holiness than your happiness.  As a result, we will often offend and sometimes forget that we need to shepherd adults as well.  We may be inconsiderate, callous, or just plain unaware of and toward offenses.  Forgive them without having to be asked.  Model humility and mutual submission by forgiving and forgetting offense without having to bring it up.  He will feel the love from you and you just might be what keeps him there.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been forgiven offense without having to be asked.  It is probably why I am still here.

So, I hope that helps…  If you’re a youth pastor, what are some things that your church does to encourage you to stay?



enditA few facts to start with: Human trafficking and slavery are real and active.  Houston, TX is one of the largest hubs for it.  We must war against this.  The war starts with us.  Drawing a red X on your hand is not enough.

The past several months there has been a fantastic effort to educate people about slavery in the world (sex trafficking in particular).  People have drawn a red X on their hand to symbolize their solidarity and commitment to stamp out human trafficking and slavery.  As I have read about this horrific trade and educated my own heart, I’ve noticed a common denominator rise to the surface.

Every article on slavery and human trafficking I’ve read (amounting to about 20 different articles in the last 6 months) has drawn a direct correlation between human trafficking and the pornographic industry.  It has quickly become evident that the pornographic industry serves as a catalyst and co-agent of slavery.  Various studies and investigations have provided vast amounts of evidence that pornographic industries are inhuman, not to mention immoral, pro-violence, and are bastions for slavery!  Beyond these, there are obvious horrible realities inherent in this abominable practice: the objectification of women, the deterioration of sensuality, the general decline of masculinity, the abasement of beauty, and numerous other side products of this blight on our society.

We want to # endit.  So I have a challenge to all my brothers and sisters: stop engaging in pornography in private!  Vote against slavery with your practices!  It’s bad for you, so stop!  You cannot practice in private the very thing you detest in public.  If you are looking at pornography on any level, you are encouraging slavery and in many cases financing the industrial complex of human trafficking.

When we profess that we want to end slavery and then proceed to delight ourselves in the fruits of such a wicked and inhuman industry, we give open approval of that which is inhuman.  Think about that; we give approval of things that are “in-human.”  This activity is less than human!  It is not simply immoral but is corrosive to our humanity.  Once a man or woman has engaged in watching pornography, they have forfeited some humanity by violating a basic human contract that we share between all of society.  In allowing ourselves this hidden vice, we say to our fellow humans that they are simply agents to satisfy our wickedness.  We thereby make humanity less valuable and we distort the fabric of what makes us human.  In devaluing human life, we will destroy humanity.

When we profess that we want to end slavery and then proceed to delight ourselves in the fruits of such a corruption of social behavior, we corrode the fabric and strength of our society.  History and missiological studies have shown that the devaluing of women and sex destroys the health and fabric of society.  What I mean is this: you can judge the strength of a society by how highly it values women.  When societies value women and give women opportunity and treat women as equal, the society flourishes.  When a society treats women as property or objectifies women, refuses to allow opportunity, and treats women as inferior, the society dies.  In such an environment, disease-rates soar, education plummets, political structures crumble, and life expectancy is ridiculously low. 

When we profess that we want to end slavery and then we proceed to delight ourselves in the fruits of such a wicked and horrifying practice, we give tacit approval to that which is evil.  Romans 12:9 says “hate what is evil!”  This is a direct command in Scripture.  We are to develop hatred towards what is evil and yet many not only indulge in pornography but, in their actions, approve and excuse such reprehensible slavery.  Further, Jesus seems to say that one who engages in pornography (an act clearly connected with slavery and objectification) would be guilty of enslaving the woman/man.  In His explanation of the Law in Matthew 5-7 He states that, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  So, if you watch the enslavement of a woman with lust in your heart, you are committing slavery!

So if you want to #endit, start with yourself.  You cannot #endit and persist in engaging in it!  You cannot profess to free slaves in the light and enslave them in the dark.

To make this easy I purpose three things: 1. Stop looking at porn and stop encouraging slavery.  There is a direct correlation.  2. Pray that God would give you a hatred of the things He hates. 3. Educate yourself on the truth of slavery in the world today. This is how we start to #endit.

Human trafficking is real, Houston is one of the largest hubs of it, and you can do something about it!  To learn more about the movement to help end slavery you can go to

For help overcoming pornography you can visit here :

Thursday Words

Since November I’ve been attempting an odd sort of fast.  Every Thursday I’ve attempted to be extremely careful with my words.  The rules are simple, don’t speak unless necessary, be sure to answer questions concisely as possible, and be careful to only say things that matter in eternity.  I would begin my fast on Wednesday 8:30 pm night after youth group and conclude it on Thursday before small group 6 pm.  Each morning on Thursday I would spend a little time in prayer and then try to be as intentional as possible with my words.  I was prepared to adapt my vocabulary, I was prepared to focus my mind on eternity, I was prepared for hours of silence, and I was prepared for this to be awesome!  I was not prepared for what God had to teach me.

The first weeks seemed easy.  Most of the days were spent in my office reading and studying.  Occasionally there was a lunch or meetings to sit through awkwardly, but for the most part these days were quiet already and not talking was only a minor challenge.  Then it happened.  The Lord began to move in the way He does.  God began to speak in the small moments.  God always starts with small moments.

I heard the laughter in the office adjacent to mine and was drawn to the fellowship of humor.  I stood in the doorway and watched as my brothers in Christ bantered with one another.  I longed to engage, I wanted to be seen, I wanted to know that I mattered.  And yet, I stood back and faded into the void.  Thus began my journey to understanding this very peculiar rift in my soul.

Slowly, my Lord began to expose my wound.  Over the next few months I would experience opportunities to rest in silence and be inconsequential.  In the silence God revealed a deep fear in my soul.  I am absolutely terrified that I will not be heard.  I fear people will not hear my voice and I will not matter.  I fear that my life and my voice will be inconsequential.  The remarkable truth about fear is it’s propensity to inspire irrational responses.  The fear that I would not matter drove me to say and do things that didn’t matter.  I would make jokes that bore no weight on the soul.  I would engage in trivialities.  My fear drove me to inconsequential existence.  When I intentionally forced myself to only say what matters it was revealed how little my words have mattered.  Giving into the fear of meaninglessness drove me to meaningless speech for the sake of attention.  Whereas striving to make my words significant forced me to be silent and often fade into the background, but what I did say matters.

Googling God

ImageIn John 8 Jesus reaches the mid-point climax of His confrontation with the Pharisees.  Up to this chapter, the religious leaders have maintained their composure and have stood in front of Jesus with some semblance of dignity.  But things are about to go bad for them.  In John 8 Jesus forgives an adulterous woman who was brought before Him as a trap and the religious leaders become infuriated with His claims to be “The Light of the World.” (v.12) Attempting to turn their eyes heavenward and to remind them of the eternal nature of their God, Jesus begins to speak of Heaven, truth and His own eternal nature.  This befuddles the religious elite and they begin to grasp at anything they can to discredit Jesus.

So, before we go any further, let’s get the issue straight.

1. Jesus has shown them that He can forgive sins and that forgiveness is not based on making the right choices in life or being good enough, but on His grace and mercy.

2. Jesus has told them that they cannot understand the light because they are not of God and are in need of Him to change their hearts.

3. Jesus has explained to them that He is the truth that can set them free from sin and that freedom is found in Him and not in self-made righteousness.

4. Finally, Jesus has explained that the religious leaders have believed the lies of the devil because they do not know the Heavenly Father.  In essence, Jesus is telling them that they are not God and they do not know God.

Now, we come to the place where someone has been confronted with a truth about God that they were not prepared to accept.  In verse 48, the religious leaders begin to come unraveled.  They attempt to grasp at anything that will discredit this God-man who stands before them.  Confronted with who Jesus is, they spit out, “Are we not right is saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon!?”  Now let’s just pause here… who would EVER answer that affirmatively?  The question is, in itself, a testament to the reality that these people don’t know God.  When we don’t know Jesus, we leap to whatever theological standpoint that would prove us right.  I like to call this, “google God.”  It happens more often today than we like to admit.  When we are confronted with a character trait of Jesus that we don’t particularly like, we often dive head first into the world-wide-web and google our theology.  What we come away with is a sad indictment on who we are and to what it is we really think makes us righteous.

The religious leaders cling to their accusations of Jesus, but the accusations are unfounded and are not based on a relationship with God and His word.  If the religious leaders had really been concerned that Jesus was teaching something heretical, they would have gone to what they knew authoritatively about God from the Scripture.  But, they don’t.  They google God.  What I mean is this: instead of seeking the authority of the Most High God to determine their answers, they take the first opposing argument they can grab hold of and throw it out in a last ditch effort to win the debate.  This is what so many people who profess Christ do in our time, we google God in an effort to find a short-cut to win a debate.  But, this is not how God works in our hearts.  God works in the tireless efforts of struggling to know His nature and find our delight in Him.  God is more evident in the disciplined heart that has labored to understand Scripture than the one who is incredibly proficient at using the internet to find satisfactory answers for a debate.  When we google God, we don’t look impressive to those who know Jesus or even those who want to know Jesus.  We look annoying and we ask questions that don’t make since, just like the Pharisees did.

So, don’t be that guy.  When you are confronted with something difficult about the character and nature of God, go to Scripture.  Google-ing God may give you a short-cut to the answers to win a debate, but it also short-cuts your journey to know Jesus more and thereby limits your ability to know Him truly.  Knowing Jesus is much more valuable than winning the debate.

Wake up early to pray and study, stay up late to study and pray, do the discipline to know Jesus.  A relationship with Jesus can’t be googled.

Leadership 101 By John C. Maxwell

Leadership 101 by John C Maxwell.

A Good Book on Leadership

Maxwell is a leadership guru.  His work has been on the New York Times best sellers list, in the wall street journal, and is getting to be required reading for pretty much every leadership course offered in business or ministry.  Maxwell is an easy read.  His books are filled with stories that inspire the heart of men through the examples of great leadership throughout history.  Stories about athletes conquering devastating injuries to return to greatness intertwine with stories of titans of business who rose from nothing to the most successful business men of their day.  On cannot read Maxwell without feeling inspired to be great.  Whether it is the stories he tells or the applications he draws, you will feel like you are suddenly able to conquer any leadership challenges with the practical and strategic method he lays out for the reader.

This short, easy read is intended to be read in one sitting.  I did this, it was fun and easy to digest.  I think that it’s a good exercise.  If you ever want to grasp the flow of a book, sit down and read it all at once.  Try it!  It’s easier than you think.

Maxwell divides his work into three sections. The Development of a Leader, The Traits of a Leader, and The Impact of a Leader.  I would rephrase them this way: Why should I lead and how, What I should look like as a leader, and What will be the results if I actually do this?  If you’ve ever read a Maxwell Book, you know every page is filled with useful tips on bettering yourself as a leader.  This work is no exception.  In fact, most of this work is a compressed version of several other works he has written on the subject.

What was helpful:  Maxwell’s work is compelling and sometimes challenging.  The illustrations make you feel as though you could just tweak a few things in your life and you’ll be able to conquer the world!  Further, Maxwell has a naturally encouraging tone.  When reading you feel as though your grandfather is cheering you on as you play tee ball and occasionally giving pointers that can change the shape of your career.

What was troubling: 1) Maxwell knows leadership, but he is a self confessed poor practitioner.  Maxwell has studied leadership for years, and yet at the beginning of almost every book he writes on the subject he tells you he is not good at it.  But, consider Maxwell.  He runs a tremendous organization and has tons of experience leading.  I think he is probably trying to set the reader at ease and explain that he was not naturally a good leader.  But he is certainly a good one.  2) There is next to no scripture used.  Maxwell draws his life lessons from illustrations from American Capitalism and Athletes.  While these are tremendously encouraging and engaging, there are seldom stories taken from Scripture.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this is still a worthy book to add to your collection, I would simply add a few more that talk about scriptural leadership as well.

In truth, there are no formulas to make you a better leader… I see my friends grab on to principles of leadership constantly.  The oldest truths described in the newest ways.  As leaders we latch on to these kinds of books for a time and we drum up a great deal of excitement in our lives for a time.  Quickly though, it becomes evident: only discipline, fervent faith in Christ Jesus, and hard work will accomplish the life change needed to lead well.  Maxwell agrees.  So read the book, love Jesus more than the advice in the book, and work hard.

Touching Godliness through Submission! a fantastic book!

One of the most enjoyable books I’ve been challenged by this year.

Touching Godliness through submission.

I read this book once all the way through and was so moved that I am going back through it slowly so that I can absorb everything in it.  K.P. Yohannon is one of the most Godly men I have met in my life and also one of the most human.  One of my dreams was fulfilled this past spring when I was privileged to sit across from him at lunch. His brilliance and Godly character are only exceeded by his humility, simplicity, and love. He would probably chide me for complementing him so and say something like, “I’m just a hamburger and french fries guy!”  But, sitting with him for a few moments, was a wonderful experience I will not forget.  He is the founder of Gospel for Asia, a missions organization my wife and I support and you should too.

In his book he delves through scripture to teach the reader truths about Godliness that can only be learned when learning submission.  It is a difficult read and it is not always fun.  Since reading this book I have called and apologized to several leaders who I served poorly and with an unsubmissive spirit in my life.  This book will change the way you look at the leaders around you!  You should read every word!

This work flies in the face of the American independent spirit.  We don’t submit! We acquiesce, we allow, we permit, we agree, but NEVER submission!  As Americans we see submission as something someone who is weak does toward someone who is strong.  But we are STRONG!!!  No…  KP wisely shows us, God is strong… we are pitiful.  Through this book I have been on a journey to learn that submission is not a weakness, but is Godly.  Think about it: everything submits to authority except sinful man.  Even Jesus submitted to the pole tax, the Pharisees, and the Roman governor! Seriously, it’s some crazy deep submission Jesus gets into…  read Philippians 2! Through understanding submission and what that looks like when we are living it out, we can begin to grasp who God is and we will be blessed to know Him more fully.

KP begins by defining Submission and explaining what is at the core of submission.  Through Scripture he defends God’s design for submitting to authority and expounds on what it means to submit.  I was so convicted by this that I have even attempted to change the way I dress when I am in the presence of an authority.  Establishing where authority comes from, KP establishes where rebellion comes from.  That is, rebellion comes from sin and our sinful rejection of God.  A warning is fired across the reader explaining that rebellious people are not children of God, but children of the devil.  Through a series of Biblical examination and a smattering of personal anecdotes from his experience as a missionary, KP challenges the way we conceive of authority and Submission to that Authority.  I promise you…  if you read this carefully, you will know Jesus better. This book is fantastic!  Go buy it now or download it for free here:

Worship: a Collision of Expression






Occasionally in youth group we paint as an expression of worship.  Last night was one of those nights.  Now… please push the images of hippy-ness out of your mind.  Also, please fight the urge to think that each student has crayons and a piece of paper.  I am not a hippy nor do I play with crayons.  This is actually art produced for the purpose of worship.  It is an opportunity for the students to learn some truths about worship.  You see, when we paint together we express ourselves in a visible way on a canvas.  As each person adds to the canvas, the canvas becomes more united in its expression. What you add to the canvas is an expression born out of your own heart.  The various individual voices in the work begin to collide and gel in a unique and impressive way.   One person may paint a flower, another may add a bright blue streak across the flower, yet another may add some sort of complementary color around that, and finally someone else adds some sort of interpretation of a heart.  As each person lays down an individual representation of their expression and in the process of worship, the individual expressions collide to create an entirely unique expression of the body of Christ in worship.  Like the painting, our lives are lived out in acts of worship.  All of us have a voice to praise the Lord, hands to serve Him, and a mind to think on Him.  What we do with those God-given faculties is worship and what we express is some indication of who we are worshiping.  Either we can worship the Almighty or we are worshiping something else.  Romans 12:1 states that we are to give our lives to Him in worship.  Worship is not just singing, but is a lifestyle lived out in the imitation of Christ.  We use our lives in the body of Christ to magnify the Lord of all Glory.  Add your voice, worship the Lord today.  Here is some of the result of last nights worship.


A definite theme of last night seemed to be the healing Love of God.  Jesus work on the cross moved in our hearts so that we would see Him and be healed of the sin and given life.  Notice the reference to I Cor. 5:21. (V:XXI).   and the Healer answering prayers to redeem the sick on the earth.


As we paint we listen to music.  The music helps us to set our minds aright on the grace and truth of Our Lord and who He is.  Here we can see; He is the Author of All, He has great Love, He is Lord, and He rules over heaven.


Confronted with the cross, students responded baffled by the Love of Christ.  The grace of God displayed for us to see moves them to ask why, to layout the cross not as a emblem of suffering, but a sign of God’s heart, to establish the work of God as the one who brings light into this dark world.

DSC00134The powerful imagery grew from one member of the congregation painting an abstract symbol.  Another added the cross, another the glory, another the flowers, another the colors, another the foot print (difficult to find), and another the peace of God.