(Josh) I just crossed 20 years in youth ministry … so I suppose there’s now some grace for me to reminisce about way back when I started in youth ministry? I spent some time reflecting with a friend the other day about those early years in youth ministry, and he asked me what I would tell myself if I could go back in time and help a brother out.

Aside from not taking the bait of me going back and talking to myself – talk about creating some continuity problems and a rip in the time-space continuum … sheesh … I thought it would be fun to journal what I wish I knew. Justin did the same below. Here are 3 things I wish I knew when I started out:

Josh’s 3:

Youth ministry is a marathon not a sprint

Youthful over eagerness can be strength at times, but often it is viewed as a negative. Passion is a powerful force, but passionate burnout is real and many well-meaning people have sprinted their way right out of ministry. I know now what I didn’t know then – youth ministry is about being faithful for a lifetime, not being fruitful for the short-term. It is all about the lifelong journey.

A healthy youth ministry takes time

Turning a youth ministry around isn’t going to happen overnight. Building a youth ministry from scratch isn’t going to be done in a year. And just when you think you’ve got some things cooking, you’ll realize that something is horrifically broken.

Collaboration is the key to most everything

Want to be a better sermon writer? Collaborate with people in every stage of the process. Want to do great youth ministry events? Don’t feel the pressure to pull things off if it isn’t your gifting, surround yourself with great people who can help you win. Build a team. Love them. Love God. Love students.


Justin’s 3:

Hope over hype.

Any one can be hype. I think most young people think it’s the hype that students come for. They might at first but then they see through it. It’s tiring trying to be hyped all of the time. I was “that guy”. There is nothing wrong with it but don’t let it be what you think is the only thing getting kids to come. Hype goes away but hope is what lasts. Don’t compare to “that church”, but build something for your context that will offer the hope that only Jesus can bring to your students. Once they know Jesus and His hope, they stick.

Bath it in prayer.

I’m still a young dude. I’m ambitious and want things to get done in a big way. But I find myself thinking that my own thinking  and planning could sustain this whole thing. I don’t want to sound too over spiritual, but hey, I’m a pastor so I won’t apologize, but it’s ridiculous to dream about what could be doing in your ministry if you don’t pray to God about even if He wants you to go there. Why would we want to go where God is not? So being in prayer in the beginning stages of planning is KEY!

Get ready for the discouragement.

Like Josh said, it’s a marathon. You what is the worst thing about a marathon? It takes forever. You know how long they run? Geez! We are in an instant culture. We want to see results now. Very few things in ministry are instant so get ready to get discouraged. Downer I know. But in the beginning of ministry you tend to get discouraged more often because you are trained to get instant results. Ministry just doesn’t work that way. Thankfully we are reminded that God works in His timing and not ours and our job is to be faithful with the ministry he gave us.