Thoughts from a Former Youth Pastor (part 1 of 2)

I can write this because I am no longer a youth pastor. Right? No hidden motives or secret agenda because it no longer affects me. These are things I have wanted to say, but couldn’t for fear of wrong motives, being unkind or not being spirit-filled. I write these things to be a help to parents and teens (if teenagers read blogs).

Spiritual health not robotic Christianity is the goal. I’m fearful that at times we put the “cart before the horse.” Somehow hoping that if they dressed just so or combed their hair this way that eventually we would be able to reach their heart. I understand in a youth group setting that sometimes teenagers may not dress according to the accepted norm. If the sum-total of our relationship is correcting a teen on his external apparel than we have lowered Christianity to a low that none of us would want to stoop. More importantly, that low Christ warned the Pharisees (see Matthew 23). The goal of spiritual health is to nurture hearts and to train minds to think Scripturally, to discern wisely and to live fulfilling lives for Christ.

Teens imitate what parents model. At times, parents would come and say I just don’t understand why my teen is so angry or just doesn’t seem to want whole-heartedly live for Christ. Angry teens come from angry parents. Lack of desire to live from Christ is passed down from us. We produce after our own kind. I will admit it did seem that occasionally a teenager from a spiritually sensitive home did not match the spiritual temperature of his home. Here’s two observations:

  • sometimes while the parents were spiritually sensitive they either (a) did not expect spiritual progress or (b) did not outline place spiritual goals for their teen
  • when a husband and wife are not in sync spiritually that tends to derail a teen spiritually

Don’t miss a Wednesday. I’ll admit that not every Wednesday has the same effect as from week to week, but rather, I believe, it is the cumulative effect over 4-6 years that gives youth group the spiritual punch that it does. Missing one Wednesday a month may not seem like a big deal because of a test or major project, but I believe it is unhealthy in the spiritual fabric of a Christian teenager. Consistency helps breed faithfulness.

99% of the time when I spoke it was to help not hurt your teen. Please don’t believe everything your teen says. I will admit there was the occasion that I did not speak kindly like I should have. It is the desire of any youth pastor to see every teen grow to love Christ and not become a stumbling-block to love Christ.

Compliment me in front of your kids (but not in front of me). It’s not that I’m insecure. I really can operate without a compliment.  It’s important for your teen to hear you speak well of their youth pastor. It nurtures within them: respect, confidence and appreciation for their youth pastor. You’ll also find that it will them grow spiritually. A teen who hears his or her youth pastor spoken well of will pay attention more during the preaching. It’s a fact of life: if you become critical so will they.

This is part one. Part two will be published next week.

3 Responses

  1. I agree! But no matter how hard we try – and we do try … without the matchless grace of Jesus and our continual dependence on Him it is impossible to cover all our bases. It is a continual battle for us as parents following the rules and still encountering so many diversified “issues”. I am thankful that He continues to pour His grace on us moment by moment and that He lifts us when we fall. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  2. Thanks, Tena. Parents who raise teens are my heroes. Parenting teens has got to be intense as you train hearts, challenge thinking all the while being loyal to the Scriptures. You’re right on target: God’s grace and dependence on Him.

  3. […] Sometimes when you’re in the role of youth pastor there are things that need to be said, but you really can’t. It may come across as harsh or even my motives might not be right even though I’m speaking the truth. These thoughts are meant to be a help to parents and I trust you understand the spirit with which they’re written: love and concern for you and your family. (part 1 can be found here) […]

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