7 Lies Youth Pastors Have To Overcome
I have lied to myself more times than I can count. False beliefs make their way into my heart, and they affect my actions and sabotage my future—and I know this is true of other youth pastors as well. But we don’t have to live this way! Confront these seven lies with the truth, and watch your life and ministry turn around:
1) I’m an impostor.
Sometimes we may feel as if we shouldn’t be up in front of students because of sins we’ve committed or because the passion we feel for working with teenagers isn’t as strong as it once was. We might even feel as if we don’t deserve to be in youth ministry.
The Truth: We’re all recipients of God’s grace. The apostle Paul said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15). You’re redeemed, and God knows exactly who you are—just like He knew who Gideon, Jacob, and Paul were when He called them.
2) Everyone is against me.
It’s easy to point our fingers at others (pastors, deacons, parents, etc.) and say that they’re the reason we can’t succeed. But this paranoia is unhelpful, and it will isolate us.
The Truth: There are some people who will be against you. For whatever reason, they may not like you or your vision for the ministry, or maybe they just think your skinny jeans are dumb. But remember, there are more people who want you to succeed than fail—you just need to learn how to identify these people in your life.
3) I have to have a certain amount of students in order to succeed.
Numbers, numbers, numbers! I, for one, really struggled with this one—maybe you do, too. In order to see yourself as a successful youth worker, do you feel as if you have to get more and more teenagers in your youth group?
The Truth: Numbers have their place, but more important than the size of your youth ministry is the health of your youth ministry. Adding lots of students to an unhealthy ministry means you’ll have a lot of unhealthy students. Jesus taught twelve students for three years, and I think that turned out pretty well. Small and healthy beats big and sick.
4) I am the ministry.
I call this this the Jack Nicholson effect. It’s when we say things like, “This ministry would fall apart without me.” Or, like Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men: “You want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.” Egomania is a beast that is hard to get back in its cage once it has been released.
The Truth: We’re not the ministry—we’re servants of the Most High God who called us first to be His sons and daughters. He requires us to die to ourselves and allow His Spirit to work through us. If the ministry would fall apart without you, then maybe it should just fall apart. Anything built without God’s hand will fall apart eventually (1 Corinthians 13:11-12).
5) My way is the best way (a.k.a. everyone else is stupid).
Have you ever had what you thought was an amazing idea, but after you executed it, the result felt hollow? Victories can be very unsatisfying when the only person to high-five in the end is you. Or have you ever forced an idea through only to watch it fail miserably? A mouth full of crow is pretty unpleasant.
The Truth: Your way might not always be the best way for your youth ministry or church. Listening to other voices is critical in order to test out ideas. If someone disagrees with your ideas, this doesn’t make that person stupid. They may be ill-informed, but they’re not stupid. It’s our job to educate others as to why something will work, and then we must articulately answer any questions about why it may not. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). Our ideas need other people’s input in order to make them better.
6) Everything depends on me.
Robert Schuller had a saying: “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” Do you ever feel as if you’re the only one who can do things for your youth ministry? This lone wolf mentality may make us feel holy, but it leaves us weak. This is the Elijah effect: Elijah believed he was the last prophet serving God, when in fact God had hidden 100 prophets in two caves (I Kings 18:4).
The Truth: Everything does not depend on us. We may be the head of the spear, but no one chucks just the head of the spear at an oncoming enemy. Ministry requires teamwork. Building a team around yourself gives you the protection, feedback, support, and leverage to allow God to do big things. Isolating ourselves is unproductive and dangerous and only leads to more lies.
7) You have to work harder.
I used to say, “You may do a lot of things better than I do, but you can’t outwork me.” Have you ever told yourself this lie? It may make us feel as if we’re getting more done, but it will only lead to burnout. Telling ourselves we need to work harder is like a pilot saying, “I have to get out of the plane and push it to make it go faster.” Yeah, that doesn’t work.
The Truth: Work smarter not harder. All the needless hours we work to make ourselves feel valued could be spent in training others, becoming more organized, and educating ourselves so as to make these hours matter even more.
To believe a lie is to chain ourselves in place forfeiting forward progress emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
Let Jesus set you free from the lies that have held you down and watch yourself and your ministry move forward.
Which lie has been holding you back the most?
Which truth will be your greatest challenge to accept?
Paul Turner is a long-time youth worker, speaker, and blogger of all things youth ministry. He’s the youth pastor at Pleasant Grove Assembly in Birmingham, AL and writes regularly at TheDiscipleProject.net.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.