Youth Ministry in the Facebook Age

 

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” Ignorance is bliss” was a term first coined by Thomas Gray in his Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.  I may be the only one who feels this way, but as a veteran church youth worker sometimes I miss the blissful ignorance I was able to experience previous to social media.  I do not say this as a technology hater, but as a person who loves social media and has an account on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even maintain my Myspace for a rainy day.  I miss the days of ignorantly believing that every one of the students in my ministry was latching on to the things they were being taught and learning to live them out.  I am such an optimist in most cases, I want to believe the best about people and believe that all of them are truly opening their heart to God.  The world of social media sometimes robs me of my optimistic dream world as students so openly and truthful share who they really are on the world wide web.

Maybe this is just me, but my heart hurts sometimes when I read the words of those I shepherd online.  It hurts so much because every part of me knows that the answers and joy that they are seeking in other places is found in allowing their head knowledge about Jesus to become a heart devotion that consumes their life.  It hurts so much because many of them sit week by week and learn more head knowledge about Jesus, but never let him completely lead their lives.  I wonder what it may have been for my youth leaders to have to sit and read the filth, doubts and soul searching I spewed from my mouth as a teenager.

None of these feelings I have come from a spirit of judgement, at least it does not feel like judgement in my heart.  Every student means the world to me, whether they realize it, or I show it poorly.  The passion of my life is helping people truly know Jesus, and I want that for every student that has ever been under my care.  My heart breaks anytime a student walks away from church.  My heart breaks anytime I see a student post things that dishonor Jesus.  My heart breaks when a student can sit through service after service at my church and still miss Jesus.  I used to be able to lie to myself and believe they were all getting it, but social media gives me a taste of reality.  A hard reality.  A reality I do not like to acknowledge.

I definitely see the great things that social media brings to my ministry.  It provides so many great tools for communicating, relationship building, and getting a window into the students world.  Maybe I am ignorant for saying this, but sometimes I wish the window was not so clear.  Satan uses it often to whisper to me of my ineffectiveness.  While many times my methods are ineffective, I know I serve a God who can change any life and that is what keeps me going.  My calling will always be to show people Jesus and hear me clear that is exactly what I want to do.  If you sometimes feel like I do cling to Jesus and your calling even when what is before you may not seem to be bearing fruit; those who you shepherd need you to keep going.

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By Our Love

I always intend to write here, I really do, but somehow some way I find other things to occupy my time.  Today I HAD to write, something is stirring my spirit and I cannot put it aside.  I guess it even relates to some of the blogs I have posted in the past but this one is more than anything directed to all of us as who labor as Pastors.

This verse has been really birthing repentance in my heart for the last few days as I have thought on it, meditated on it and have sought to be intentional about living in light of it.

John 13:35 By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.

I attended the C3 Pastors Conference last week and was really shaken by every single message that was preached.  Some were delivered by ministry legends like Ed Young Sr., others by pastors I had oftenly judged with scepticism like TD Jakes and Ed Young Jr and others by pastors whose name I had never heard like David Hughes, Leon Fontaine, Dr. John Cross, Samuel Chand, Dino Rizzo and others.  All that to say, I am different because these guys listened to God’s Spirit and shared from the depths of their soul what God had spoken to them.

It got me thinking, especially in light of all of the publicized attacks on Ed Young Jr, Pastor of Fellowship Church in the last few months, why do we as pastors seem to ” eat our own” so to speak.  It is obvious that Ed is anointed and gifted by God to be a voice to help those without Christ see their desperate need for them.  So in his time of attack, why are we blogging about him, slandering him, speaking out against him when I am sure most of us only know of him personally what the media has told us is truth.

What does it gain for us or the kingdom for us to be the cheerleading bloggers that are adding to the fire of those who are questioning his motives? It sickens me that  sometimes I feel it gives us some kind of joy when we see one of the “big dogs” in Church leadership fail because then we can pat ourselves on the back and feel better about our shortcomings as leaders.  All of us who pastor know how difficult being a pastor is, the behind the scenes stuff that can steal our joy and exhaust us if we do not stay intune with God himself for filling, contentment and power.  Many of us know the pain of slander that has been aimed at us or our family.  So why are we the ones sitting behind our comuter screens firing darts of accusation at one of our fellow co-laborers for Christ?

Don’t we believe that Ed needs prayer from us right now? If the pastors aren’t willing to stand with their own who will? Whether we agree with his actions, his theology, his method of ministry, he is still one of us. One of us who is impacting lives all over the globe for the kingdom. Rather than perpetuate the slander, lets unite to pray!

I was also convicted by my quickness to judge or be skeptical of the motives of pastors that I really knew little about.  I will tell you I felt pretty foolish that I had long been skeptical of TD Jakes when I heard him preach God’s Word Friday.  This man allowed God to work through him in a way I have seen few others do. He spoke with power, he spoke biblically, but most of all he allowed the Spirit to use him as a vessel. His message ate my lunch, gave me hope, pointed me toward Christ and helped trim away some dead branches in my life.

I guess in all of this the principal I learned is we can spend a lot of time slandering other leaders, jumping on our blogs and facebooks when another leader “fails” legitmately or by our standards or we can be a people who stand with one another, pray with and for one another.

Does the world know we are followers of Christ by the way we love each other or conversely do they see people who are quick to cast a stone at easy targets. God is telling me to put my rock down, that unless I have not failed as a leader then my stone belongs as an ornament of the dust rather than a weapon of accusation. Honestly I think this is a universal principle, who needs more prayer than our government leaders right now? Who needs to know the Lord more than the celebrities and atheletes that we see fall into moral failure?

We can continue to comment on our opinions of peoples failures or we can become serious about standing in prayer before God as broken people praying for other broken people, I know the road of change God is leading me down. I have no voice nationally, no one knows who I am in the Christian world but my prayer is that the things God has convicted me of will affect and resonate with Christian leaders around the globe

Praying, Loving and Standing with other broken leaders,

Darrell Halk

Attn: Youth Pastors

Hope this post finds all of you well. To all those serving in youth ministry, I wanted to see if you would be willing to answer a survey for me.  Since 2004, I have been researching burnout in youth ministry and working on putting together that research into book form. Now that I am done with seminary, I really want to dig into this project.  I wanted to see if you would help me with this research?  Below is the survey, let me know if any of the questions are unclear.  Thank you in advance for your insight into this subject. You can reply here or send to the email listed below.  

  • Burnout Survey 
  • Name: 
  • Church/Organization: Position:  
  1.       What do you believe are the common causes of burnout in youth ministry?           
  2. What do you believe are some warning signs that you are burnt out or may be on the cusp of experiencing burnout? 
  3.   Do you feel burnout is a major issue that is plaguing youth ministers? If yes why do you feel it happens so often?   
  4. What are some unfair expectations that you believe are placed on youth workers and how does that affect performance and job satisfaction?  How do expectations lead to burnout?   
  5. What are the dangers of comparing your ministry to the ministry of others and how can that affect us personally?  
  6.   In your ministry what event/ events have shaken your faith and made you doubt your calling or feel insufficient to lead? 
  7.  Share stories of how fellow staff members (senior pastor, education minister etc) encouraged you or discouraged you in your ministry? What impact did this have on your ministry
  8.    Share a personal story of when you experienced burnout in ministry.  What caused it? What were your thoughts during that time? What helped you get out of the pit of burnout and be refreshed? 
  9.  How important are mentors, family, co-laborers and friends in staying fresh in youth ministry? Why?
  10.  What advice would you give youth workers who are beginning to feel hints of burnout?  What are the keys to staying fresh? 
  11. What value does your call to ministry have in staying fresh and avoiding burnout? 
  12. For someone who is burnout what advice would you give them about how to reconnect with God and allow Him to refresh them?  
  13.  Even though ministry takes so much out of you at times, what keeps you going? What makes you desire to keep pouring your life into students? 
  14. If this research were to be used in a published book would you be willing for us to use your answers and quote you by name?

Leadership

Allow me to just be transparent for a second, and just say sometimes being a leader is so hard.  With all my heart I want to please God, but sometimes in pleasing God I have to displease people.  That is hard for me, because I have such a desire to please people, to be respected by them and to have them on board with where I am leading.  This is another time in which I feel God is stretching me.  There are great decisions that face me in the coming weeks, vision to be cast and steps of faith to be taken.

God give me the courage to follow you, even when the choices that need to be made may not be popular.  God help me to hear you clearly, let this be your youth ministry and not my own.

Practical Applications for Ministers

Yes, yes, it is finally new post time.  I found this list of practical applications for ministers from a chapel service led by Dr. Jimmy Draper Jr. at SWBTS.  I think this was from my first semester there, but I am not sure.  I thought these might be helpful for other ministers out there.

1) Don’t neglect your personal relationship with God

2) Make time for your family

3) Everyone needs encouragement- be kind

4) Never make decisions when you are depressed or discouraged

5) doubt never means yes

6) be open and honest- be transparent

7) answer all phone calls, mail and email

8.) don’t let anger be a pattern of your behavior

9) Few people make mistakes on purpose

10) Let your preaching be from the Bible

11) There is no excuse for being unprepared to preach

12) Don’t flirt with temptation ( Ephesians 4:27: 2 Corinthians 4:2)

13) Cooperate with your fellow believers

14) Be a good steward of your position, influence and all your experiences

15) Pour your life into a few people

16) Cherish and protect friendships

17) Give credit to others

18) Keep cpnfidences

19) Lead by example

20) No premadonnas in God’s service- you have to earn the right to be the leader

21) You’re not always right so admit it