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5 Common and Chronic Youth Ministry Headaches

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Headache #5:  Gossip

Students love to gossip about other students and sometimes even about their youth pastor or youth staff.  Unfortunately most church youth groups are notorious for thriving on gossip.  Gossip is like youth group cancer.  Gossip can spread and kill youth group momentum in a matter of minutes.  In Romans 1.29-30, gossip is listed between murder and God haters as stuff God dislikes.   Youth pastors need to cultivate a youth group environment that doesn’t tolerate gossip by showing students how to hunt down the truth and confront individuals privately. (Matt 18.15-17)  It is not fun untangling all the gossip and hurt feelings when students come running to you (the youth pastor) after everything is said and done and expect you (the youth pastor) to fix it.  I would always remind my student if you got beef with someone in youth group:  1) Talk to them privately, 2) don’t publicly broadcast the issue and 3) if he/she isn’t listening get a 3rd party involved aka an adult volunteer or a youth pastor.  I had no problem kicking students out of youth group who were constantly caught for spreading false things about other students.

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Headache #4:  Administration  

Most youth pastors hate administration and don’t have proper, paid admin staffing and support. I strongly believe that administration is a key component to making youth ministry sustainable. In the past, I surrounded myself around business peeps who helped me think about ministry systems and how to better organize my youth ministry.  I stole a lot of their excel spreadsheets which taught me how to enter, sort, prioritize, filter, calculate data.  Find good youth ministry administration software.  Read Youth Ministry Management Tools and The Minister’s MBA .  I would give my leaders/students personality tests and if they were “detailed oriented” I would give them a lot of the youth ministry administration responsibilities.

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Headache #3:   Camp Scholarship

Selecting what students get scholarship money for camp is a tough decision.  A youth ministry simply cannot pay for every student to go to camp.  In the past, I have had parents so angry with me because  I was “playing favorites” and I did not award their son/daughter $ for camp.  In the Gospels Jesus didn’t heal everyone that expressed need, so I don’t think it is wise to award every student a scholarship.  I dealt with this scholarship issue by drafting a scholarship application.  This scholarship application had to be completed by both the student and family in order to be considered for a camp scholarship. How did I discern what students were getting money?  These were the 3 big determining factors that influenced me:  is this a first time camper? what is the family household income?  what is the youth group commitment level of the student?  The best scholarship application template I used and adapted was from Forest Home Camp click here to see sample scholarship application

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Headache #2:   Students engagement on Sunday mornings

Students not engaging in Church on Sunday mornings is an epidemic that is spreading through America evangelicalism.  Students brains don’t function properly in the morning and they are coming off a long week of school so they are tired.  I have no problem admitting I injected students with suger (via soda, doughnuts, orange juice, coffee, cocoa, cake) in order to jolt students attention on Sunday mornings.  My theory is:  Scripture + sugar = Spiritual Alertness.  In addition, the youth pastor has to bring his/her A game on Sunday morning by making sure he/she is fully of alive and has a lot of energy.  Energy is contagious.  Motion creates motion.  Utilize question books to spark slow conversation amongst the students.  Asking funny and engaging questions to at least gets students thinking.  My go to questions books were:  If:  Questions For the Game of Life and Would You Rather:  Over 200 Absolutely Absurd Dilemmas To Ponder.  Also utilize great teaching videos that allows students to engage but don’t have to be fully alert.

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Headache #1:   Lack of leaders

Recruiting leaders will always be an overwhelming need.  Time, relationships, and prayer will definitely help, but don’t feel so guilty if you only have 3 solid adult leaders.  Sometimes there are seasons where God doesn’t bring any good adult help and that is okay.  I would encourage you to read some of my other recruiting posts to gather ideas on how to get good leaders on board:  Recruitment Strategies and Youth Ministry Adult Volunteer Recruitment.  My point is:  be thankful for what you got and it takes time to cultivate great leaders.

About Jeremy Zach

Orange XP3 Specialist | Youth Worker | MDIV | Hot Sauce Addict | Dr. Dre Beats Lover

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4 comments

  1. I think these are all necessary headaches (with the exception of gossip). We will always be dealing with these things, and yeah, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to ever recruit leaders or worry about what students get scholarships to camp, but unfortunately, we live in a fallen world.

    And I don’t use advil to deal with these headaches, I use a trip to starbucks to sit and read and clear my head.

  2. Great stuff bro. Another headache may be the lack of support for youth ministry in certain contexts. I have seen some churches who pour money into programs that have been the “golden calves” of churches yet their youth get little to no attention. Great post.

  3. Gossip- I would put this as number 2. In the past I’ve experienced parents and my volunteers talking to everyone about concerns they had about my leadership except me. It certainly has me constantly fighting off paranoia.

    Admin- I’ve seen some very dreamy youth ministry admin software, it’s just finding the money to pay for it!

    Camp Scholarships: I have lots of sets of siblings, so these families are also important to take into consideration. Summer camp is a different story than retreats. Our church takes the funds raised, the number of students attending, and give equally. This is mainly because the camps themselves often offer need-based scholarships.

    Sunday Mornings: our teens have a fairly strong presence, and are somewhat active. It’s getting the new students who only come on Wednesday’s and their families plugged in.

    Leadership: God has blessed me with some great leaders, it’s now a matter of actually meeting together that’s tricky.

    Thanks for a good post!

  4. great comments. What about another headache: Lack of Budget?

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