It’s Orange Conference Eve!!!  I’m so pumped for this year’s Orange Conference. I’ll be there with a few members of my team if you want to hang out.  You’ll be able to find me at the food trucks.

In honor of the Orange Conference, I’m linking to a post I wrote for the Orange Leaders blog last month.  Check it out…

Last night I had a nightmare. I was at my church campus, leading a ministry event for students but everything was wrong . . . way wrong. My hair was bleached blond, I was wearing a seashell necklace and carpenter jeans. Petra was blasting out of the PA and I was unwrapping marshmallows for an epic game of pudgy bunny. Did I mention there was no one there? Zilch! The only person there was my mom, and even she looked bored. The event was a tragic hodgepodge of irrelevance. Then I woke up…

You can read the rest of the post here.

I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn and experience at the Orange Conference with all of you very soon!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been blogging about the dumb things I’ve done in student ministry.  If you’re wondering, it doesn’t feel that great, but I think it’s important because what we do as student pastors and volunteers is crucial.  My hope is that by reading about my mistakes, you’ll be able to avoid them in your own life and ministry.  So, here we go with number 2 in my top 10 list:  Saying Too Much

I’ve always considered myself to be a decent public speaker.  I usually receive good feedback, other than the first sermon I gave, after which, a crusty old man came up to me and say, “You’re going to be a good preacher someday.”  I mean, how do you interpret that?  “Thanks?”

In my opinion, becoming a great student ministry communicator requires answering three questions.

1. What’s the focus?

2. Who is my audience?

3. What’s the goal?

WHAT’S THE FOCUS? 

I believe that the greatest temptation for someone who communicates to students is to focus on entertainment rather than biblical truth.  This is incredibly difficult because it’s hard to keep the attention of students, particularly students who have grown up in church.  They know all the stories.  They’ve sat through about 3 million sermons.  How do you grab and keep their attention?

For me, the answer is almost always comedy.  To be honest, it is easy for me to get on stage and perform stand up comedy disguised as a sermon and receive great feedback.  However, comedy alone doesn’t change lives, God’s truth does.  The skill we all need to learn is to tap into the natural tension, character development, and inherent conflict of the biblical narratives and let them propel our communications.  And, to be clear, all my communications are funny.  It’s a gift God has given me and there’s nothing wrong with throwing everything you have into crafting a great communication.  But, the point is, if your focus isn’t God’s truth, what’s the point?

WHO IS MY AUDIENCE?

I was trained to preach at a conservative bible college.  I was taught to preach using three points.  These concepts were drilled into me.  Then, I was hired as a youth pastor at a church that believed in the same model of communicating.  Now, it isn’t that this model is wrong, necessarily.  However, as I prepared my communications, I had the wrong audience in mind.  I prepared to impress my professors and the adults in our congregation who believed in this model of communicating.  I failed to ask these important questions:  How does my audience learn?  Where are they developmentally?  What will grab their attention, focus their thoughts and move them?  In other words, what do students need to hear, based on where they are at?

I’ve come to believe that in order to be effective, communications must be targeted and tailored to the audience.  If you’re following a communication model because that’s “the model,” it’s very likely that you aren’t engaging your audience.  For me, I spent the first few years of my career saying way too much and yet saying nothing.  I don’t believe my audience of students learned much during my first few years of ministry because I wasn’t aiming for them.  Three points meant no points.  That was a hard lesson for me to learn.

WHAT’S THE GOAL?

Allow me to be vulnerable for a moment.  I love being told, “That was a great talk!”  It feels so good! You’re probably the same.  We’re hard wired to thrive on encouragement.  The problem comes when you aim for this.  I think that many of us, if we are honest, subconsciously prepare our communications with the goal of getting congratulated.  This focus is dangerous for a number of reasons, but to the point of this blog post, it isn’t the right goal for an effective communication.

I’ve learned to aim for different feedback from students and volunteers.  These days, what I want to hear is this:  “Our small group had a great conversation tonight!”  In our ministry structure, small groups immediately follow the communication.  This is intentional because we teach for the conversation.  The goal of the sermon is to set up conversation in the small group.  My hope is that the focus isn’t on me, as the communicator, but rather on the small group leader and the dialogue.  Students learn by engaging.

In the end, what we want, is life-change.  We want students to embrace Jesus and become more like Him.  We believe that the path to life-change is biblically centered communications that are developmentally appropriate and set up a conversations between students and their small group leaders.  Small group leaders help put handles on the communication.  They help students engage and implement what the Bible says.

ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

As I see it, great student ministry communications are built on the answers to three difficult questions:  What’s the focus?  Who is my audience?  What’s the goal?  If you answer these questions well.  You’ll likely become a great communicator.

Lastly, not every student pastor has the time, or is wired to write great communications.  If you find yourself in this situation, that’s ok!  If it would be helpful, I’d be happy to send you any of our teaching series, complete with teaching scripts and graphics.  Comment on this post or email me if you’re interested.  Also, reThink’s XP3 curriculum is fantastic.

 

image credited to Elyce Feliz via Flickr

 

It’s Monday, which means you probably need a good laugh.  Let me help you out with that…

Announcement: Camp Lifeline from Lifeline Student Ministries on Vimeo.

BTW…if you are an Ada family, Camp Lifeline sold out in 3 days last year.  Here’s the link to register your child

Click here to sign up

 

 

Dumb | One Lawsuit Away

April 16, 2015 — 4 Comments

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been blogging about the top ten dumbest things I’ve done in student ministry.  My intention is not to make myself look like an idiot (although I’m sure that’s entertaining) but rather to help other student ministry workers avoid the same mistakes I’ve made.  My topic for today is liability.  Now, I realize that I might sound like your paranoid grandmother, blogging about this topic (not the blogging–I can’t really see your grams blogging, but rather the liability paranoia) but I’ve come to realize that liability is something worth talking about because the truth is that, while it isn’t a very fun topic, our churches and student ministries are one bad lawsuit away from being shut down.  It happens.  I don’t want it to happen to me and I don’t want it to happen to you because what we do, as student pastors and volunteers is too important to jeopardize.  So, indulge me.  Let me share a little story…

One thing you should know about me is that I love mission trips.  I love how they transform lives.  The combination of having your eyes opened to needs in the world, feeling like God can actually use you, and the experience of traveling and serving together with a small group of people changes the trajectory of a life, over and over again.  I absolutely love it.

As a younger student pastor, my assumption was that the more intense the mission trip experience, the more impactful it would be in the lives of my students.  I suppose that to some degree, this is probably true.  The problem, I discovered, is that there’s a line, and beyond that line, well, you’re just asking for trouble.

Early in my career, an opportunity arose to take students to Honduras to help local church planters build churches among the Lenca people.  I was so pumped!  This was exactly the type of trip I was looking for.  And to be fair, these trips were incredibly life-changing for my students, volunteers and me.  However, looking back, I realized that a few of these trips to Honduras slipped across the line and became too dangerous for students.  Let me explain.  Here’s what I remember from these trips:

  • students riding in the back of pickups with indigenous drivers on horrendous mountain roads
  • never knowing exactly where I was
  • being 2 hours away from the nearest hospital while doing semi-dangerous construction work
  • being stranded in the jungle completely alone with two students for several hours
  • framing a church with a chainsaw…because that’s what we had
  • sliding backwards down a slippery mountain road in our team vehicle
  • students walking on planking two stories above ground while we worked
  • not having appropriate safety gear for students
  • being stranded in a mountain village for a few days because a monsoon washed away the roads
  • building a church in a mountain village that I later learned had tried to kill one of the missionaries
  • did I mention that I brought 9th grades?
  • oh, and Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world..

Look…I know this list makes me look like a complete idiot but I assure you that the results from this trip made me look like a hero with parents, leadership and the students.  In fact, some of them will probably want to fight me if they read this.  This trip really did impact students for life.  Also, you should know that the missionaries we were working with are incredible people who are doing amazing work.  It’s just that these trips weren’t a good fit for high school students.

Looking back, I realized that we were one small mishap away from major problems.  What if a kid had fallen?  What if our team vehicle had slipped off the road and into the ravine?  What if someone had been maimed by that chainsaw?

First off, the tragedy would have been unspeakable.  Secondly, a grieving or angry parent could have ended our entire church with a lawsuit that we never could have won.  Also, a 2 or 3 million dollar lawsuit would sink most churches.  In a court of law, my case would have been indefensible.  “You were where?”  “You were doing what?”  “What were you thinking?!?”  I mean, let’s be real, we didn’t even have a release of liability form!

I encourage you to consider liability as you plan events and trips.  Do you have a plan?  Does your church have liability insurance?  Do you require a release of liability form?  What is your emergency protocol?  Do you run background checks on your volunteers?  Do you have someone in your context asking you hard questions about your liability for events and trips?  In my opinion, we have to be able to answer all of these questions intelligently and effectively because what we do is so important.  It isn’t worth jeopardizing because of negligence or recklessness.

 

image credited to Shawn Carpenter via Flickr

Dumb | TMI

April 9, 2015 — Leave a comment

Lately I’ve been blogging about the dumbest mistakes I’ve made in student ministry.  My hope is that my dumb mistakes will inspire you to be…well, not dumb.  What we do is far too important for us to be dumb!

One of the dumb things that student ministry volunteers and pastors do is disqualify themselves.  Here’s what I mean…

One of the dumb mistakes I made, early in my student ministry days, was TMI–that is too much information.  I was sharing too much information in the wrong places, specifically, I was processing in the wrong places.  There’s no doubt that ministry is stressful.  Churches are quirky organizations and people do the craziest things.  Everyone in ministry needs a place to vent and process.  The problem is that far too many of us choose to do this online or with the wrong people.  Processing in the wrong places can be incredibly damaging to your own reputation and also to the faith and trust of the people you are venting to.  An unfiltered comment posted to twitter or Facebook doesn’t have the privilege of further explanation or context.  I learned this the hard way in the early 2000s as I explored the writings of the Emergent church movement.  Let me explain:

I grew up in very conservative churches, attended a very conservative Bible church and was on staff at a conservative Baptist Church.  When I ran into Emergent writers, I felt like I had finally discovered the missing piece of my faith, which was a theology that incorporated the kingdom and also cared about suffering in the world.  As I explored these ideas, I took to my Xanga page (yeah, I’m that old) with my musings.  The problem was that my students, volunteers and co-workers who read my blog didn’t live in my head.  They didn’t know that I was adding a kingdom minded branch to my biblically centered theology.  They thought I was going “liberal.”

What I learned was that while I needed to process what I was learning, the Internet isn”t the place to process.  Unfortunately, I lost some credibility and trust with a few students, parents and volunteers along the way.  Processing in the wrong place can be pretty dumb.

The second way I see student ministry volunteers and pastors disqualifying themselves with TMI is also on the internet.  A picture is worth a thousand words, but in the world of social media, it might be better to say that a picture generates a thousand interpretations.  The beauty of Instagram, Vine, Twitter and Facebook is that you get to share your life with people.  The danger is that people have the freedom to make their own decisions about what your pictures mean.  This idea is especially important if you are in ministry.  Let me give you the clearest example I can think of:  alcohol.

We know from the Bible that there is nothing wrong with drinking alcohol, in fact there is an example of Paul encouraging Timothy to drink a little more wine for health reasons.  We also know that the Bible speaks explicitly again getting drunk, especially if you are a spiritual leader.  In addition to these two ideas, many in our culture struggle with abusing alcohol.  Lastly, if you serve at a church with conservative roots, you probably have church members who think alcohol is the devil.

The thing is, when you post a picture to Instagram of you and your bros at Buffalo Wild Wings, enjoying a brew while cheering for your squad, you don’t get to explain the context to your boss, the volunteer who is a recovering alcoholic, your student who is debating whether to party on Friday night, or your hyper-conservative aunt Gertrude.  They just jump to whatever conclusions they want.

In my opinion, it simply isn’t worth the trouble.  We’ve gone as far as create a social media contract for our staff and volunteers.  The basic gist is, “I agree to not be dumb on social media.”  We have a policy that states that our staff and volunteers won’t post pictures of drinking to social media.  I would encourage you to do the same in your ministry context.  It’s not worth tarnishing your reputation or the reputation of your ministry over a misinterpretation.

Dumb | One Little Mistake

March 20, 2015 — 1 Comment

I’m in the middle of a blogging series called Dumb.  These posts are all about the dumb things I’ve done as a student pastor.  My hope is that you can learn from my mistakes instead of making your own.  My overall point is this:  Student ministry is hugely important!  What we do to invest in the lives of students and lead them into growing relationships with Jesus is amazingly powerful We can’t screw it up!

I’ve broken my mistakes into three categories:  burned out, disqualified, and ineffective.  You can check out my posts on burn out here.

Disqualified

One Little Mistake

It was 10 pm.  The event had been long and exhausting and here I was waiting for a parent.  Of course.  Why are we always waiting for parents to pick up their kids?!?  I care about my volunteers so I let them all go home to get some rest.  That was 30 minutes ago.  That was my first mistake.  Here I was, alone with a female student, waiting for her parent.  Waiting, waiting, waiting.  11 pm.  That was my 2nd mistake.

I finally got her parent on the phone.  He’d fallen asleep and for some ridiculous reason, he didn’t have a car tonight.  You have to be kidding me!!!  I’m so tired!  Forget it!  I’ll bring her home myself.  11:30 pm.  I’m driving alone with a female student in my car.  That was my 3rd mistake.

Here’s the thing:  Nothing happened.  There was no weirdness, no attraction, no nothing.  There wasn’t even a conversation because I was so annoyed and tired.  But, that’s not the point.  This girl was an incredibly broken girl.  The thing about broken people is that they do broken things.  I’ve heard many stories of youth workers being accused of inappropriate behavior with students.  How many ministries and churches have been discredited by inappropriate behavior or even the accusation of inappropriate behavior.   Like I said, in this situation, nothing happened, but that’s not the point.  In the case of an accusation, how could I have defended myself?

Broken people do broken things and we all know of several instances in which youth workers got caught in the mess.  What I’ve learned is that one little mistake can destroy a career, a ministry, a family, a church.  And, sometimes it doesn’t matter if you did something morally wrong or not.  One slip in judgement at 11:30 at night, when you’re utterly decimated by fatigue and frustration can bring the whole thing down.  It’s not fair but it’s absolutely true.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that dumb isn’t usually intentional.  It’s usually not malicious.  Dumb happens when we’re exhausted, frustrated and when our guard is down.  Boundaries, accountability and policies protect us when we’re exhausted.

These days, my philosophy is that anyone is capable of a lapse in judgment, or worse.  I recognize that I am a fallen and broken human being and everyone that I work with and serve is in the same boat.  The wise thing to do is create boundaries, to accept accountability and to work and serve within clear policies.  Student ministry is too important for us to be dumb.

 

image credited to Kyle May via Flickr

 

Dumb | Speak Up!

March 17, 2015 — Leave a comment

This week I’m blogging about a presentation I gave to West Michigan area youth workers about the top ten dumbest things I’ve ever done in student ministry.  Last week, I posted about being over scheduled, the dangers of being a student ministry rock star and trying to be amazing at everything.   I’ve broken my dumb mistakes down into three categories:  burned out, ineffective and disqualified.  Here’s my #7 dumbest mistake:

 

Burned Out

Speak Up!

I don’t know about you, but I like to get along with people.  I’ve always been very accommodating.  As a teenager, I was able to float between all sorts of social groups because I never rocked the boat.  I knew how to make everyone happy.  Whenever conflict came I buried it. I always kept my hurts and anger inside because I discovered early in my life that to let them out was dangerous to relationships.

I know what you’re thinking:  “Well, that’s not very healthy!”  Hey, slow down!  I didn’t know that yet.  Besides, you’re ruining my punchline.

Anyway, I carried this understanding of conflict and relationships into college, marriage (which is a whole other blog series!) and ministry.  The thing about ministry is that it is loaded with conflict.  I mean, it is just riddled with it.  I once heard a seasoned senior pastor say that ministry is a “series of difficult conversations.”  I think that sums it up pretty nicely.

So here’s the thing, in my early years of student ministry, I skirted around conflict.  I chose not to confront co-workers or superiors when I had been hurt and I surely didn’t have conversations with volunteers who weren’t meeting expectations.  In short, I didn’t rock the boat.  I kept everyone happy.  And the thing is, everyone was happy.  I was getting glowing reviews, regular raises, and the student ministry was growing quickly.  The only thing was that I wasn’t happy.

The problem is that people disappoint and hurt each other.  This is normal in friendships, marriage and church work.  It’s the nature of things.  When volunteers, co-workers and superiors disappointed and hurt me and I said nothing.  I thought it was best to keep the peace.  What actually happened is that over years this disappointment and hurt grew and evolved into something dark and incredibly heavy.  In fact, it became something so big that I lost control of it.  I became bitter and jaded.

We all know that person in ministry who is jaded.  You can hear it in their tone of voice and in words dripping with bitterness.  Their boss is an idiot.  Their elders are out of touch.  Their church is dumb.  The church across town is has sold out.  So and so author is a heretic.  Don’t become that person.  How do you become that person?  Easy.  You simply don’t speak up when you are disappointed and hurt.  When you choose to keep it inside, you choose to drink the poison of bitterness.

What I’ve learned, the hard way, is that it is far better to speak up in two ways.  First, seek to clarify hurtful conversations.  Most of the time, when I get disappointed or hurt, it is because I misunderstood something someone said or something they said came out in a way they didn’t mean.  By simply asking clarifying questions releases 90% of my disappointments and hurts.

Secondly, I’ve learned that careful confrontation is crucial to healthy relationships.  We’re all broken.  The thing about relationships, whether a friendship, marriage, or working relationship, is that they gravitate toward chaos.  It’s the nature of trying to relate in a fallen world.  You have to fight for healthy relationships.  I’ve learned that in order for a relationship to work over the long-haul, it must involve calling each other out when we get disappointed and hurt.  Ignoring this truth will inevitably lead to either a superficial or broken relationship.

In the end, I left my first church, in part because I had become frustrated, bitter and jaded.  What I’ve learned is that if I had clarified hurtful conversations and carefully confronted when necessary, I’d probably still be there.  It is a great church, with great people but because I functioned in relationally unhealthy ways, I allowed myself to become jaded.

What we do in student ministry is far too important and life-changing for us to become bitter and jaded.  We must choose maturity and maintain healthy relationships so that we can serve and lead for the long-haul because that’s what it takes to grow a great student ministry.  Don’t be dumb.  Speak up.

 

 

image credited to ceratosaurrr via Flickr

 

This week I’m blogging about a presentation I gave to West Michigan area youth workers about the ten dumbest things I’ve ever done in student ministry.  Over the last few days, I’ve posted about the dangers of being a student ministry rock star and trying to be amazing at everything.   I’ve broken my dumb mistakes down into three categories:  burned out, ineffective and disqualified.  Here’s my #8 dumbest mistake:

dumb

Burned Out

8.   Over Scheduled

When I began my first student ministry job, things in the high school ministry weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders.  They guy who was the youth pastor before me is a great guy but for whatever reason, he and the church didn’t click.  To put it bluntly, the high school ministry was basically dead when I was hired.  I felt an enormous amount of pressure to revive the ministry, so I went all in.  We’re talking three programs a week–all year long, two fun events a month, three retreats a year and 3 mission trips a year.  Oh yeah!  Maybe that doesn’t sound nuts to you, but it is.  Trust me.

Did my approach work?  You bet!  The attendance jumped up, the church leadership and parents were pumped, it was a huge win…for a while.  Then, I completely fried.  I exhausted myself.  The truth is, no one can maintain a schedule like that.

I distinctly remember the moment when I realized how over-committed and exhausted I was.  It was a Sunday morning.  I was sitting at my kitchen table in a panic because in a mere two hours, I would stand before 100+ students and preach a sermon I didn’t have.  I had no plan whatsoever.  I had been so busy during the week that I hadn’t studied, written or practiced anything.  This was bad.

Needless to say, that Sunday morning sucked.  In the aftermath, as I came to terms with the fact that I had neglected my most important duty, I finally realized that I needed to cut back.  I had created a monster I couldn’t maintain.  Yes, the student ministry was rocking but the pace and schedule had crushed my soul.

The thing about profound exhaustion is that it doesn’t go away overnight.  When you are exhausted on a soul level, you need a season of rest.  Sadly, I couldn’t recover in the role I was in.  In the end, I quit and took a new job that had a much smaller focus.  My new job was team oriented and specialized.  Also, the student ministry wasn’t schedule heavy.  The sad thing is, the church I left is a great church, with solid leadership and great people.  I was the one who created the problem with my unrealistic expectations and over-committed schedule.

If I could do it all over again, I would use one word to govern my student ministry practices;  sustainability.  A sustainable pace and schedule is absolutely crucial to longevity in ministry, and longevity is crucial to effective ministry.  I firmly believe that great student ministry takes years to grow.  Our students desperately needs pastors and volunteers who will commit to them for years at a time.

Is your schedule sustainable? Are you sprinting toward exhaustion?  Cut back!  Slow down!  Great student ministry takes time to develop and what we do is far to important for us to burn out.  Take the long view and run at a sustainable pace.

 

image credited to Dafne Cholet via Flickr

This week I’m blogging about the dumbest stuff I’ve done in student ministry.  It’s my sly way of talking about what really matters.  I’ve broken down my big mistakes into three categories:  burning out, becoming ineffective and disqualifying yourself.  Yesterday, I posted about the dangers of becoming a student ministry rock star.  Here’s my #9 dumbest mistake…

dumb

Burned Out

9.  Amazing at Everything

I’ve always been a bit of a control freak, and I love the spotlight.  Because of this, in my early days of student ministry, I did everything.  I was the teacher, worship leader, volunteer coordinator, keeper of the budget, leader, event planner, strategist, counselor and basically everything else.  I guess I just thought that a youth pastor should do all these things.  Maybe you’ve been there.  Maybe you’re still there.

It took me a while to learn, but eventually, I discovered that I’m not awesome that all of these things.  Shocker.  I’m a little slow, I guess.  Let’s just say, I was one of the last to learn what was obvious to everyone else.

Honestly, no one is amazing at all of these roles.  I discovered that I’m only an A+ at one or two.  In some of them, I’m a solid B and a few I’m an F–I mean just turrible.  The trouble is that because I was trying to be amazing at everything, I was amazing at nothing.  My Fs were Fs, my Bs became Cs and my A+s became Bs.  In other words, the student ministry wasn’t as strong as it should have been because I was trying to do too much.

Where were the volunteers you ask?  Good question.  They were there, patiently waiting for me to give them something meaningful to do.  I kept the volunteers, and many of the students on the sidelines for too long.  When I finally woke up and began handing off meaningful roles, our student ministry became stronger, and my A+ strengths reemerged.  I admit it.  I was dumb.

Sometimes, the most important leadership lessons are hiding in plain sight, right in the Bible.

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” (Ephesians 4:11, 12)

Student ministry, or any ministry for that matter, will always be better when leaders equip others to do the work.  Also, when we focus on our A+ skill areas and empower gifted people to do the roles that we are weak in, everyone wins!

Why is it so difficult for many of us to learn this lesson?  I think there are two main reasons.  First, we too often find our identity and worth in our work.  When the spotlight is on us, we feel that the credit is clearly ours.  When our work defines us, we aren’t free to delegate and empower because to do so would mean that we are less valuable.

Secondly, we aren’t inviting feedback.  Many of us simply don’t know what we’re terrible at because we haven’t been told.  Honest feedback always makes us and our ministries better.  Who is giving you honest feedback?

If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t be dumb.  I would focus on my two A+ roles, and empower others to do the work I struggle with.  The ministry would have been better and healthier much sooner.

 

 

Dumb | Rock Star

March 10, 2015 — 2 Comments

Recently, I spoke at a gathering of student ministry pastors and volunteers about what really matters in student ministry.  The thing is, nobody likes a “know it all”, so instead of talking from a pedestal of expertise or success, I talked about the top 10 dumbest things I’ve done in student ministry.  Let’s be real, people would rather hear fail stories than success stories.  Also, using your mistakes as a platform to talk about what really matters is a brilliant strategy.  Just admit it.

Anyway, I began with this idea:  What we do, as student ministry pastors and volunteers, is far too important for us to become burned out, ineffective, or disqualified.  Students deeply need good student ministries that connect them to Jesus and meaningful relationships with spiritual mentors.  We can’t screw this up!

So, thought I’d spend a few days sharing all the dumb things I’ve done.  Who’s pumped?!?!

Burned Out

10. You’re Not a Rock Star

Being a student pastor is a little like being a rock star.  Sure the stage is small and the audience’s brains are still developing, but being a rock star, even a small one, is exhilarating!  In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s intoxicating.

For me, my first student ministry role very quickly became the Aaron show.  It was all about me–my singing, my speaking, my events, my wisdom–me, me, me.  In a shocking twist, this wasn’t good for anyone, particularly me.  For one thing, I began to gauge my success in ministry based on claps and compliments.  Did they love my worship set?  Did they tell me afterward how amazing my talk was?  Was this the best event they’d ever been too?  If these things didn’t happen, then I would feel like I bombed.  And, if they did happen, then I felt like a rock star.  I’m telling you, this quickly led me to a bad place.

Now, I may sound like a horrible person to you right now, but this is a very real thing, especially for those of us who are natural entertainers or performers.  We don’t need any more examples of egotistical pastors falling from grace in American churches!  One common theme among all these fallen pastors is that they became rock stars.

What gets lost in the pastor as rock star phenomenon is Jesus.  Wait, isn’t this whole thing supposed to be about Him?  Well, yes, of course, but I found myself in a place where I was more interested in students falling in love with me than with students falling in love with Jesus.  I would have never verbalized this, but looking back, I know that it was true.

I know that some of you, who are serving in or leading student ministries, know exactly what I’m talking about.  The danger in all of this is that students would miss Jesus.  As good as it feels to be needed and esteemed, we need to be very careful here  What’s the solution?  Well, in my opinion, it’s community.  Invite your community into this conversation.  Give them the freedom to tell you if you are slipping into rock star mode.  Also, lead in community.  Invite others to serve in the rock star roles.  Don’t be the worship leader, teacher and game leader, and host.  Give a few of these roles to someone else.  Share the spotlight.  In doing so, you’ll take the focus off yourself an help put it back on what students really need, Jesus.  Besides, being a rock star, when you’re supposed to be a servant, does bad things to your soul.  Trust me on this one.

 

photo credited to Lloyd Dewolf via Flickr