What I Miss About Being a Youth Pastor

Maybe today you're wondering why you are doing this?  Why do you stay in Youth Ministry?  I've been there, you come off a great weekend, or a tough night, and the same feelings surface of doubt that you're actually making a difference. 

Well, last July I resigned from my role as Youth Ministry Director (which is fancy for 'Pastor'), but you're bored of hearing about that part of the journey. 

Today, I wanted to tell you that I miss it.

Not all of it, for sure.  

But I miss enough that I cut some of my ideas and still came up with a list of 23 things I miss about being a Youth Pastor:  

Maybe you have forgotten just how awesome some of these things are, may this remind you of the unique position you're in to dramatically change lives. 

Here's 23 things I miss about being a Youth Pastor:

1.  Creativity and freedom to try new things.  (Every week was an opportunity for new ideas, a new chance to wow them, a new chance to encourage a teenager in their creative expression, this exists very few places in the world)

2. Realizing in a conversation with a parent that we want the same thing for their son/daughter. (They are not a problem to be dealt with, but you are partners in this journey) 

3. Talent Shows (Watching/Cheering, I wrote about why I love them so much here

4. Talent Shows (Performing, with and without Youth. This past weekend the group was at a retreat and once again put together an absolutely epic routine to perform in front of 500 people  ! These moments bring us together like few other things can, they don't exist anywhere else.) 

5. speaking of...Retreats (The tired table games at breakfast - The late night brawls, sneaking out to catch youth sneaking out, vomiting, dance parties, and deep chats about stuff that matters - The difference between the bus ride up and the bus ride home...)

6. Hearing someone say “Wednesday is my favorite night of the week” (or whenever the weekly gathering happened to be, for some students, this really is the highlight of their life!)

7. Laughing, so much laughing.  (With, at, about, youth.  And/or with, at, about me or something stupid I did)

8. Speaking every week. (Who would pass up a chance to talk about my passions and deep beliefs about God and how he loves these teens?!)

9. Becoming friends with the pizza guy (Not enough to actually know his name, but in place of names we called each other 'Buddy'.  I invited him to play dodgeball with us once, and to watch the Superbowl with us, but he had other pizzas to deliver, to other 'buddy's I'm sure...)

10. Being Humbled (Like when I was just about to be too cocky in dodgeball and then the 4'3 grade 6 girl gets me out… #walkofshame)

11. Imminent Change (Like seeing a young teen obviously not wanting to be in the place, then helping turn that into a great conversation and a great experience)

12. Renting Bouncy Castles (all. the. time.)  

Spiritual people are about tiny things, which is the fruit of their spirituality. The spiritual life is not a life of success; it is a life of faithfulness, and it’s not easy...that’s why Jesus told the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son, the mustard seed. Jesus was trying to tell us something: the spiritual life is a tiny life, filled with little decisions, tiny steps toward God, tiny glimpses of his presence, little changes and small movings, tiny successes and imperceptible stirrings.”
— Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality

13. Skits (Some may think these are dead, but I made every effort to help keep the art alive. We need to show that creativity is more than video and music, bring on the painters, the actors, the dancers...give them a place to perform and be furiously loved!)

14. "That kid" (that stayed later than everyone else, or the kid that was there for the girl, or the kid that was pretending to be angry at life, or the kid that really was angry at life, the kid that volunteered for EVERYTHING, the kid that farted all the time, the kid that sat quietly in the corner, the kid that...)

15. Mission Trips (I can remember every single one, and so can they.) 

16. Questions from volunteers (If they're asking questions it means they are engaged and want to get better at ministering to these youth, I LOVE QUESTIONS.)

17. Questions from teens (I always appreciated the fact that they would feel comfortable enough to ask a question, and made sure that everyone in the room respected that, regardless of how dumb or off topic or obvious the answer may have seemed to be.  Did I mention I love questions?)

18. Inspiring a volunteer (To serve in a new way, or to find life where they serving now.  I miss hearing them tell me about how surprised they are that Jr.Highers are amazing people, or that they feel so much more comfortable not having to lead a game but do something else instead.)

19. Watching them grow older and become leaders (And eventually take over from you to lead the ministry...whoa, what a story that would be.)

20. Advocating for our Youth Ministry in the church (I went in most days to the office understanding that nobody cared as much about this ministry as I did, therefore it was my responsibility to help them see what I see)

21. Watching for the Wins (Big and Small, I love the unexpected ways we could end up defining success after any given event.  So, I learned how to watch, allllways watching (said like Roz from Monsters Inc) 

22. Staying up at Night (Wondering how I can get them to realize they are hurting themselves, and hope is real in Jesus, and it doesn't have to be this way) 

23. Padding the Résumé (Realizing my job description should include counsellor, event planner, motivational speaker, and author, among other things). 

Here's the thing, I didn't go into Youth Ministry FOR any of these reasons really. I started because I wanted to help create a place for young teens to feel safe and learn about Jesus.  I kept going in Local Church Youth Ministry because of all these things and more.  Today, to reference Dr.Suess, I'm sad because its over but I'm also happy because it happened. 

What would you miss, if you left the role you're in now?