Time for a themed blog post. I chose the name "Life in the Youth Ministry Fish Bowl" for my blog because that is what it can sometimes feel like. Like we are along in this little microcosm of church environment, and the only time we have interaction by some church members it's because we knocked over the little diver guy or broke the treasure chest that spews the bubbles. I know that isn't/shouldn't always be the case and the teens need to swim in the open water of "big" church but sometimes that's not how it feels. But that's the topic for another blog post.
A day or so ago I get an invite from another youth group on a social network site, and I almost committed a cardinal youth minister sin. I've always heard it said that if you check out "large" church youth ministries you'll get jealous and think the grass is greener etc. Well I checked them out anyway! I defy your rules! However, the oddest thing happened. I appreciated out your ministry even more. Yeah they had more kids, but the programming looked far cheaper than the size would warrant. Now let me take a second to clarify some, I'm not saying that YM is doing a bad job or that the stuff you can't see like discipleship and deepness of faith isn't good. This is speaking from a programming perspective.
The point I learned from this is, don't try to swim with the "big" sharks if your a small fish. I gained a greater appreciation for the programming I have designed and use and all of the neat ideas I've had. This leads me to some thoughts,
1: Know your strengths. If your a smaller church embrace relationships, don't worry about your programming not looking as cool as a youth ministry with a budget the size of your entire church. Know that your strength is your size, you can know and be involved more in your teens life than a mega church youth minister can be. If your a mega church youth minister use your budget and programming to your advantage a build a team of great support staff to help you in that relationship area.
2: Fish swim in schools. Find or create a local area youth pastors network. Their ideas and support can and will be invaluable to you over time.
3: Embrace your individuality. Are you a clown fish? Don't try to be a shark. Are you a shark? Don't try to be a clown fish. I'm a clown fish. My youth ministry and my youth ministry style reflect that. I'm the crazy youth pastor your hear about doing off the wall wacky stuff that makes you mad cause you don't do that. But don't hate me. Your probably the youth pastor that has this deep seriousness that causes his/her youth group to be very serious about their faith. I don't hate you your just different. We both have our place, my kids have a blast having fun in Jesus name and learning a lot along the way. Yours are the serious kids who are bible quiz aces.
So embrace the fishiness! Just keep swimming my friends!