Youth Ministry is like a Game of Poker

One of my greatest joys in youth ministry is being able to speak in the lives of teenagers! What a great privilege.

In saying that, you and I know that it isn’t easy to speak truth in love when teenagers don’t want to listen... in other words; we got to gain their trust before we can speak truth.

A good friend told me that ministry is like a game of poker. You got to win some chips (trust) to gain influence. Here are some great chips that have helped me in ministry:

Be a shepherd

Being a shepherd is deeper than being a friend or playing crazy games, a teenage babysitter (which sucks), or even a youth worker. If so, we become no more than a social worker.

I find that being a shepherd is best described in 1 Corinthians 4 as Paul is defending what a Christian leader looks like:

  • It is about being a servant – not a door mat but bringing out the best in your teens.
  • It is about visitation – being in their schools on a weekly basis, connecting with MIA (not just on FB but a phone call), giving a kid a ride home (which I find is a great way to chat with teens. In fact, I find car rides the best place to do mentoring, counselling, or getting into their heads).
  • It is about agape – seeing and encouraging Christ given potential rather than focusing on teen’s short comings. Bring out potential in teens by not focusing on their problems but their purpose in Christ.
  • It is about discipline – this was hard for me when I first started out as I wanted to gain chips by being the fun hangout dude, but discipline is so important for teens. When done in agape, teens can trust you. In other words, discipline has to be done well in a corporate setting and in a individual context to thrive.
  • It is about revealing Christ – be a pastor! Being a “pastor” is not a bad word for teens because they don’t care about position as much as your example. BE a person who teaches Christ-likeness in ALL you do; motive, thoughts, words, actions; even when no one is looking! Teenagers need pastors... not youth workers.
  • It is about transformation – build disciples! Be a person who point teenagers around Christ, not you. So often, teens connect MORE to their youth pastors than Christ (I don’t think that is a bad thing, but it can lead to co-dependency and weak disciples). Do you have a structure in place where teens can KNOW and GROW in their relationship with Chirst? Are you intentionally building disciples?
  • It is about hard work – what motivates you as a pastor? Is it success? Numbers? Food? Honestly, what should motivate us is what motivated Christ to the cross... obedience to the Father and agape for people. I desire to be a pastor who makes the most out of everyday with Christ... nothing is MORE IMPORTANT than a daily walk with Jesus AND to agape people; every race, religion, people group, social groups, religious or not... Christ died for them. Are you willing to die to self for Christ to rise within you?

Teenagers will give you their trust when you have gained some chips... AND there is nothing more rewarding than beating out the devil in a game of poker for the souls of young people.