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Tag Archives | in the trenches

You Don’t Wish You Were Here

My mom used to say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence because a septic tank lies underneath. Thus, my very loose translation of Proverbs 4:27 for youth workers: “Don’t look to the left at the megachurch or to the right at the big parachurch ministry.”

Have you ever experienced drive-by jealousy while passing a mega-ministry? Do you feel overwhelmed when Instagram and Twitter bombard you with attendance stats and successes? It can feel like a nonstop highlight reel of comparison.

People often comment about how great my job must be. Truthfully, it’s just like yours, full of hurting, broken kids who regularly make poor decisions. Although I usually post about the good stuff, the grass dies here just as often as at your place.

When your eyes and heart focus on what others have and do, three things happen: You lose because you become discouraged, kids lose because you’re distracted, and God’s Kingdom loses because his servant is disheartened.

If you’re stuck there, remember these two things:

1 Bloom where you’re planted. If you were to poll your teenagers, you’d discover they keep coming back for relationships, not a fancy building, free pizza, lasers, or Kinect. Kids love your group because they’re known there, they matter there, and people care for them, pray for them, and accept them there. Your ministry may sometimes look like a mess to you, but it’s a blessing to be able to share Jesus through it. Consider the lives and stories you have an opportunity to speak into, and strive daily to show Jesus in each of them. In this generation that’s so hungry for significance, kids are just waiting for you to give them something—and Someone—to live for.

2 Look forward. What can you add to the ministry landscape? More than you can imagine! Thousands of struggling youth workers are trying to figure out how to work in a context just like yours. God has taught you many lessons in the trenches, and others need to know how to deal with those same tough situations. Here’s how you can share your experiences so others benefit:

  • Start a blog.
  • Write a guest post for another blog.
  • Submit a magazine article (easier than you think).
  • Walk alongside a new youth worker in your area.
  • Speak at a local training event.

Time to go water the lawn!

You Don’t Wish You Were Here by Josh Griffin originally appeared in the September/October issue of Group Magazine where he is a regular contributor for his “In the Trenches” column.

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Kick Yourself Off Youth Ministry Island


When my rowboat finally hit land, I loved what I saw. Palm trees, coconuts, crystal-clear water…perfection. Everything was mine. I was in charge. I’d made it. For years, I’d wandered at sea, but this paradise quickly erased the pains of the journey. I found shelter, gathered food, and swam. It was incredible…for a while.

Let me back up. For a long time, I cared about the whole church. I was “all in,” wearing every hat on the giant ship. Being an all-around crew member rather than just the activities director was exhausting. I performed multiple tasks on every deck. More than once, I wanted to toss a few people overboard.

One day, I snuck away on a little rowboat to find dry land. I was free to do my own thing—to build the youth ministry and nothing else. It was oddly exhilarating to work with teenagers, not caring if they ended up at my church or not. (After all, if the church weren’t paying me, I probably wouldn’t even go there.)

If you’ve ever been to Youth Ministry Island, you know it quickly loses its luster. The place pulls an awful bait-and-switch, and here’s what remains:

Loneliness—The excitement upon arrival is intoxicating, yet over time you feel isolated. While fighting the elements, you realize survival would be more possible if you were part of a crew.
Invisibility—Being off the radar seems like a win initially. Then you notice you’re left out of celebrations. You realize your freedom has come at the expense of team. Longevity, after all, is birthed from being part of a much greater whole.
Martyrdom—To top it off, you feel like a victim. “I’m the one who should be getting credit,” you think. “Everyone else is out to get me.” Paranoia wins because you’re alone and invisible.

As fall approaches, what boat will you be on? If you’re alone, invisible, or playing the martyr, you may have set sail for Youth Ministry Island. Take these steps now to get back aboard the big ship:
• Care about the whole church and speak highly of it.
• Support the senior pastor and leadership.
• Offer to assist with “out of your area” opportunities.
• Help design a church that welcomes back graduating students.

Good youth ministry isn’t just about caring for teenagers. Find passion for everything God is doing so you don’t get stranded on Youth Ministry Island.

Youth Ministry Island by Josh Griffin originally appeared in the July/August issue of Group Magazine where he is a regular contributor for his “In the Trenches” column.

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