It’s OK to Be a Youth Leader Who Says “No”
You’re probably thinking 1 of 2 things: 1) This is clickbait, or 2) You’re a lot like me and have a hard time saying “no,” whether to youth, leadership or even the hardest person of all – yourself. One thing I have learned in my journey in youth ministry is that not everyone’s idea is a good idea, and not every idea I have is a good idea. That’s why it’s important as someone who directly impacts the lives of young people to have the word ‘no’ readily available in your holster.
I’m a sucker for a sad story, tears, the pretty pleases, the puppy dog eyes, and all other tools young people use when trying to squeeze you for something. Sometimes young people need to be protected from themselves, and as a youth leader, you have the foresight to know that what a young person is asking for isn’t what they need, even if they have convinced themselves that it is. I know that for me, I personally struggle to say no because I want to be the alternative to what they hear at school or at home from their parents. I want young people to see me as a cool adult, but what I believe young people need more than another cool adult in their lives is someone who loves and cares about them enough to use the authority (given by God) to protect their minds, bodies and spirits from things that they don’t see. As a child, I loathed adults that told me no just because they could, and when I got into ministry, I vowed that I would never be that kind of adult. But then I learned the balance of saying no when it’s necessary.
When I first started in youth ministry, I did everything to catch my pastor’s eye. I did things so that he would say “good job” or for him to notice me. He would often suggest ideas, and because he was the pastor, I felt obligated to execute them, even if I didn’t believe in them. It took time, but one day, God revealed to me that I was a liaison between the young people and the rest of the church, that I knew them (as a whole) better than anyone, and that I had to always act in their best interest, even if that meant telling leadership “no.” Now I’m not telling you it’s ok to disregard leadership and the authority they have, but what I am saying is that part of being a great youth leader is having the discernment to know when it’s appropriate. Not every good idea is good for young people.
Saying no to yourself is the most difficult because it leads to self-doubt and questioning. One thing I have learned is that a certain amount of self-doubt is healthy and necessary, mainly because it causes you to seek humility and allow the Spirit to fill in and assure places where you aren’t sure. I am so grateful that when I get too full of myself, and I begin to operate outside of what God has designed for me, He places situations and people around me to seek humility. Saying no to yourself is also necessary because as youth leaders, we are sometimes our own worst enemy. I can tell you from personal experience that there are so many times I wish I said no to myself. If you’re anything like me, sometimes you take on too much, and because we’re youth leaders and think we’re superhuman, we think we can take on the work and it becomes too much. Some of you who are reading this have wives and children who need you more than the church does, and that’s ok. You are your first accountability partner, so if you don’t say no to yourself, then people will feel like they can pile more on you.
Being the youth pastor that says no, might make you unpopular, and maybe uncool, but youth ministry is less about being cool or popular and more about equipping young people to be the people God called them to be.
J.C. Carmichael is a youth leader at New Prospect Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has been in youth ministry in some form for the past 10 years. He has a passion to see the young people realize their purpose to be world-changers. J.C. has had the opportunity to minister to young people all over the country and has also been instrumental in creating youth ministry models for youth leader to adopt in their own church. He believes that everything that is done is for the glory of God. You can connect with J.C. on Twitter @JCCARM.
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.