Thankful For the Lessons Learned While Serving in Youth Ministry – Thanksgiving Series – Post 1

This week, I am posting a series on some of the blessings I’ve been thankful for that I haven’t expressed before. So here we go:

First up, I’m thankful for the lessons I learned in youth ministry. Until this September, I had been serving in vocational youth ministry since the beginning of 2000. One of these days, I’ll try to intelligently post on my transition. But until then, know that I loved being a youth pastor.

As I have been enjoying settling into my new position, there have been moments that I’ve missed serving in youth ministry.  Like when the Montvale group (my previous church) shared about their mission trip experience at the end of September (was thrilled to watch my young friend Jorge’s video of our trip). Other examples include hearing about their fall retreat and seeing my new church’s youth pastors lead their respective retreats. Our middle school pastor, Andrew, told an incredible story of one student’s experience last month and among my thoughts were, “I used to tell that story.”

That said, I’ve been grateful not to be away these weekends now with our third child having just been born and two little ones wrecking havoc on our home. My dear wife is a trooper and since she’s taken that Mom’s class led by the Marine veteran, I think we’ve “taken back the beach” – Oorah! Still, I look at back at my time in youth ministry and here’s what I am grateful for:

1. Youth ministry demanded that I be a better speaker and taught me how to hold people’s attention. You think the adult listening span is short, try a 9th grader’s. There are countless lessons I learned by teaching young people over the years from reading body-language, to the way humor works, inflection, pacing, to “what’s in my head is not coming out right from my mouth, now what do I do …. just keep moving, don’t let them sense weakness or lack of confidence … must take back the beach!”

2. Youth ministry forced me to pay attention to practical theology. Many times, I was the first person to explain an essential doctrine like the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Not only did this mean that I had to explain these theologies in understandable terms, but I needed to truly think and live them out.

3. Youth ministry helped me to see the world of contextualization. Here I am as an X’er leading Millennials who are being parented and educated by Boomers in an ever-changing society. Add to it that I’m proclaiming a God, that among the things we say about Him is that He is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” Contextualization was the key for learning the balance between relevance and timeless truths.

4. Youth ministry taught me to be a better leader. It taught me how to deal with criticism from students, from parents, from volunteers, fellow staff members, from soccer coaches …. did I miss anyone? I learned the values of listening, decision-making, forgiveness, seeking forgiveness and the need to keep pressing on among other needed lessons.

5. Youth ministry made it clear that they key to ministry is loving people and showing them you care.

So it turns out, that I’m getting back in the saddle. This Sunday I’ve been asked to teach the 6th Grade Sunday School class on “something from church history that doesn’t suck.” I’m a little nervous but I feeling up for it.

Indeed, there were many more lessons gained along the way. If you’re a youth worker, feel free to post yours. If you’re not, feel free to post a lesson you are thankful for in your walk of life.
This week I am posting on why I am thankful for the emerging church movement, Facebook and … Donald Trump.


  1. Kerri – The most prized coimmdoty that adults have is TIME. Our children are starving for an adult who takes the TIME to sit and BE with them, LISTEN to them, LAUGH with them and if necessary CRY with them. They are seeking our full attention, unplugged from the news or our iphones. Preaching to them or at them is not what they are in need of. If we are not living the life of faith they will not listen to our agenda filled speeches. This generation can spot and CALL out a hypocrite in a split second. This generation appreciates when we can share our own failures and experiences with a genuine heart. Time is all they are asking for and this generation of youth is over scheduled and neglected in a very different manner than generations of the past. It appears as though all of the advantages we offer by way of tutors, private lessons, excellent college level courses in high school; all which are based upon their performance is not giving them a better chance or a leg up . It is creating a loneliness within and often creates young adults that either feel they don’t measure of or they give up. Once example, most kids don’t even work at getting their own drivers license .how bizzare. We have a generation of lonely young adults that are burnt out by 25. This is just what I am experiencing while raising two pre teens and one teen

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