A few years ago I had a student say something that was really a gut check for me and my motives of ministry. We had just wrapped up a series where we had taken a break from small groups and had done a few big activities. Because of that there were many new students I didn’t know. As we split up into small groups after the message that week I took a few new students in my group. We began by introducing ourselves but before I could get started one of the new students exclaimed “I know who you are!”. I am thinking, of course you do I am the youth pastor who just preached that 25 min message you sat through, and the one last week and the week before. But then he finished his thought, “You are that guy who throws the dodgeball really hard!” It was funny and we all kind of chuckled.
Then I started thinking about it, he didn’t say ‘the guy who teaches us about Jesus’, ‘the guy who leads us’, ‘the guy who builds great relationships with students’, ‘the guy who brings energy from up front’, ‘the guy who knows a lot about the Bible and is willing to help us grow’. The thing that stuck in his head and what he knew me as was “the guy who throws the dodgeball really hard”. Now, this was an 8th grade boy’s head, so you really don’t know what is going on in there. But it still got me to think, what do students know me as? What is my legacy?
I am NOT saying don’t have fun. I think youth ministry should be fun, and I try to make it as fun as possible. This is NOT one of those posts that tells you to stop having fun, don’t do giveaways, and just sit in a circle and read the whole time. Fun is a very important element, but the student’s comment did make me check myself. While that title would be awesome on the playground or at the local dodgeball club (I don’t know if those actually exist) that is definitely not what I want to be known as in ministry.
So, what do you want to be known for? What is it that you are striving to do in ministry, and HOW are your actions matching up to what you want to be known as? If your students were to describe who you are without using your name what would they say?
We should all be striving to be someone who engages students in real ways and points them toward Jesus.
A sure way to have students not see you for what you want is to be disengaged. Don’t unplug and just allow the program to run without being present and engaged with students. Now, if you are part of a large ministry or as your group grows it is impossible for you to actually be relationally involved with every student, but you definitely should be with some. Engage students in real ways!
If students don’t remember my name but they remember Jesus I have totally won! If later in life when they think of youth group and they only know me as the guy who taught them about Jesus I will be SO happy! Whatever it is you want to be known for make sure it has something to do with pointing students to Jesus.
Definitely after you know what it is you want to be known for, live in a way that mirrors it! Think about how your actions are matching up with what you are striving to be.
I knew my motives of ministry and I was striving toward them but that student’s comment definitely caught me off guard and made me think. What do students know you for? Is it something you are proud of? Is it something Jesus would be proud of?
Just some thoughts for you to ponder this week as we all work toward being better youth workers!