“Direction, not intention determines your destination.”
― Andy Stanley
When are you too old to be in youth ministry? Have you ever thought about that? The longer I am in ministry. The more I start to ask myself that question. How old is too old? Can I be my kids youth pastor?
Ben Kern’s over at his blog, Average Youth Ministry, wrote a article called, “2 More Years.” He resonates with this question when he says, ““How much longer can you keep doing this?” It seems like I have been getting this question a lot lately. And by lately, I mean the last ten years. As someone in their early 20’s, student ministry was a great fit. As I rounded the corner into my 30’s I became a respected veteran and expert. Now that I am in my 40’s it just feels a bit awkward to me, and apparently to others. So, with regular frequency, when I meet with parents, the questions always seems to come up.”
How much longer can I do this? As long as I want if I am continuing to be a learner. I will never arrive, I need mentors, and people who know me and are able to help shape me into the person God created me to be. I need a direction. My church needs me to want to be directed.
With the changing digital culture that we find ourselves in, today is crucial that we as youth workers continue to learn and develop our craft. What we do is unique to the church.
I am constantly looking for ways to reinvent myself. I need to constantly learn new things and have people in my life who push me to learn things I wouldn’t naturally learn. The day that I stop learning is the day I need to move on from youth ministry.
Here are 5 ways that I am constantly learning:
1. Have a mentor. I know this is one of the only reasons why I am still in ministry. I have had some difficult years, but the reason I have stuck it out was because I had someone in my corner cheering me on. I am thankful for this godly man. He has helped me pursue Jesus in the most difficult times of my life. It is such an humbling experience to have had an amazing youth pastor and then intern under him for my Masters, and now to serve alongside him as a staff member.
Having a mentor matters. If you can’t find someone in your denomination, then you need to look at asking someone that you respect. It could be someone from a web community, or a community that you have heard about. If you don’t know where to start, you can read our post called, “Why You Need A Mentor and How To Find One.”
2. Mentor someone. With the group of churches that my church is affiliated with we have a school program where a student interns under you for 2.5-4 years in order to get their Masters degree. This is a great program, and the best part is that I get to learn all over again. It is pretty intimidating to get every area of my ministry critiqued the guy I am mentoring. One of the biggest things this does is help me stay on vision and mission.
The student that I am mentoring helps me prioritize to either learn, or phase out. It’s a natural process.
I have committed to mentor this student for the next 3 years. It will be a great learning experience for me as I learn how to lead people.
3. Listen to podcasts. I have a confession. I am a podcast junkie. A student last week at my jr.high youth group asked me what music was in my iPhone and I told him that I don’t listen to music. It’s the truth. I don’t listen to a ton of music. I do have a few lists on spotify, but other than that it’s all podcasts.
4. Read books. For me this always goes in seasons. I want at least one book on the go at all times. This is one simple way for me to be reading something daily. I have noticed that I am reading a ton of blog articles each day instead of books. I am worried about this, and I want to get back into the habit of reading each day out of a physical book.
Right now I am reading Judah Smith’s new book called, “Life Is _____.: God’s Illogical Love Will Change Your Existence. I love thinking through things all day at work, praying through them, and challenging them with my Bible reading. This book is fantastic and I am looking forward to hearing Judah Smith at Catalyst West.
5. Go to conferences with friends. Some of the most profound experiences at conferences has been with my great friends. There is something about getting away and unwinding and processing everything together that is holy. Friends only make conferences better.
I am excited this year as me and my staff team are heading down to Catalyst West next week. I love working with the people I work with, and I can’t imagine a better way to gel as a team. We will be spending 5 days in L.A learning, resting and playing. I know that God has some huge things in store for us down there.
I also find that picking the right conference is crucial. Youth ministry conferences serve a purpose, and were key for me early on in my ministry calling. Nowadays, I feel like nothing has changed and the voice has been the same for the past 10 years. That is why I switched it up this year. I want to attend a conference that is beyond me. Initially, I wanted to attend Gospel Coalition…I will get there next year. But, I couldn’t swing all the flights and hotels. So, we decided on the next best thing, Catalyst.
Those are 5 simple ways that I am trying to stay on my game. I am constantly learning. The more I am in ministry, the more I realize how important it is to have a teachable mindset. The interns I am looking for are not ones that are competent, but ones that are teachable, and have deep character.
Jesus modeled to his disciples how they were to lead and learn when he said in Mark 9:35, “And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”