Sometimes I receive responses from pastors to the question I like to ask them about the most important thing they learned in ministry. This answer is from a youth pastor we had back when my wife and I were kids. He’s still pastoring youth and had a great response. I publish it with his permission.
I have a hand-written statement placed prominently on my desk. It reads, “If teenagers love me and they don’t love God, then I have been promoting the wrong person.” I wrote this statement while on my knees asking God about the ministry that I have.
Conventional thinking goes something like this: If I can get a teen to like me, respect me, to draw close to me, then I can show him the Christian life. The teens love for me will eventually transfer to a love for the Lord through my testimony.
There is something very satisfying to the flesh with this theory. It is pleasing to be respected, followed, loved. It is flattering to be imitated. Teens do stay out of trouble, oftentimes, because of the influence that the Youth Pastor has in their life. However, the problem comes the year after they graduate. I am no longer there to keep them straight. The time they spend with me is greatly limited. My influence diminishes and their true heart is revealed. I was trying to get them to follow me, and that is exactly what they did.
On the other hand, if I spend my time, not working at getting the teens to like me, but pointing them at all times to Christ and His sufficiency, then lasting progress can be made. If a teen loves Christ and I love Christ, we will automatically love each other and be drawn together. When the young person graduates, he doesn’t need me to keep him straight. He goes on with his True Love.
This may seem like an obvious truth, but under the searching microscope of reality, most of what is done in the youth ministry is a promotion of self, not Christ.
Scott VH., Runnels, IA