Here is part of the Q & A I had with youth leaders across the southern states of Brazil..
Name a couple of early leadership lessons that still impact you today.
First, I’m not God. Second, if I’m going to make it long term in ministry, I better get good at feeding myself spiritually.
Both of these lessons came at a great price – the price of failure. We meet students with huge needs and voids in their life – lack of a family, mom, dad, emotional or physical abuse, great hurt and needs – and part of what makes us good is that empathy and desire to meet those needs, to help. The danger is stepping in over our heads and thinking WE are going to make the difference.
They need Jesus more than anything else. They need that personal connection with Him because He is the only one that will heal completely, restore completely. If I step in and all of a sudden I am the hero – then I’m taking the place of God and it might be so subtle of a change that I don’t notice it until it is too late. So a student becomes more dependent on us than God or more in love with us than Jesus. Dangerous place to be for both them and us.
Eventually, we minister out of the overflow of who we are and what God is doing inside us. And if we aren’t consistently learning and feeding ourselves spiritually – there will be a crash.
If you are just starting out a student ministry, what’s the first thing you suggest doing?
Start with finding a couple of other people that are as crazy about students as you are. Then do life with them, grow with them and start investing in students. Size of group doesn’t matter at this point (if ever) but it’s the pattern of life on life discipleship that you want to learn and start reproducing in your workers.
Give students access to your life so they can see and hear and taste and touch Jesus in your everyday life.
How do you find volunteers
Pray like crazy. And start being observant. Teens are great at recruiting their own volunteers. Just watch what adults your students talk to and hang out with during church events or school events. What parents or mentors seem to attract students?
Get specific when you ask for volunteers. Have a task that is measurable for first time volunteers — like setting up this space, providing these resources, doing this certain job. Start this way and as they get ‘infected’ with the student ministry, they’ll move into deeper areas of serving.
Our culture is so sexual and there is this over-emphasis on physical beauty. The girls dress so provocatively – almost every media outlet uses sex to sell – how do we combat this? How do we speak to our students about this?
Tough question, one we face in the States as well. Amy and Lisa spoke to this question better than I did. I talked about ‘taking them to the crash site.’ In other words, walk the students to the inevitable conclusion of where their actions are taking them. Not a bad answer but Amy and Lisa’s answer was better.
They said — keep taking your students to the Word as to the kind of man/woman God wants them to be. Keep pushing a God-centered identity and being accountable to that. Mileage may vary but only a heart captured by God is going to be able to withstand the world’s temptation.
Youth ministry and youth workers have very little respect in our culture. How do lead in that kind of context? How do you deal with parents and students who won’t respect or follow leadership?
This was another tough question. After swapping war stories, I shared with them the passage God seemed to laser in my heart this last year and half as a new lead pastor — Philippians 2 — the whole chapter but here is the focal point for me happens in verses 3- 7:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…
I’m not sure if there is any magic pill we can take to make others follow us or give us respect. The best thing I think to do is make sure every decision I make is because Jesus told me to do it. Nothing out of selfish-ambition. Having a team that is sold out to the vision will help discern what those decisions are but as leaders we have to make sure that we do what we do because it’s God-directed.