Standards in Youth Ministry

Sometimes I feel the most humbling lessons I learn in ministry come straight from looking at what my teenagers are struggling with.  This week?

One of the things I feel like I’ve been pounding into my teenagers lately is the fact that we set extremely unrealistic standards for ourselves, standards that we don’t hold anyone else to.  Teenagers feel like they need a boyfriend/girlfriend in order to fit in, yet don’t judge a friend or even an adult leader at church for being single.  Female teenagers feel like they have to be thin in order to fit in, and male teenagers feel like they need to be built.  So I ask them, “I’m an unmarried, hefty adult.  Am I worthy of love?”  They assure me that I am.  So I ask, “Why do you hold yourself to a standard that you don’t hold me to?”  They usually take a while to chew on that before humbling.

Later, when I think and pray over these conversations, the irony hits me: In my ministry, I hold myself to standards that I don’t hold other youth ministers to.  Here are a few:

  • I expect my ministry to grow exponentially, but when another church doesn’t grow or it even loses members, I don’t think twice.  I spend nights crying over lost students in my church, but not over others.
  • I force myself to read tons and tons of books or write tons and tons of blogs, but don’t think that others need to do this.  Educationally, I hold myself to a different standard.
  • I expect all of my students to read their Bibles daily, pray, and have real relationships with Jesus.
  • I wish for my next church to be a huge church, or to become the next Josh Griffin, or to become famous in the youth ministry world (don’t lie, you want this too).  But obviously everyone can’t be famous, obviously there’s a need for small-church youth pastors, and obviously I’m not as cool as Josh Griffin.
  • Personally, I push myself further because I am a female, and I feel like I need to somehow be “better” than the males in my field, to somehow “prove” myself.
  • I set the standard that it is my responsibility alone to do these things.  With this expectation, I miss out on what my volunteers are able of doing, but more importantly forget about the work that is necessary for parents to do.

It is extremely dangerous to pressure ourselves to be perfect, when we don’t expect that out of others.  It is also incredibly egocentric. So I encourage you, fellow friends in youth ministry, to look at these standards you are holding yourself to.  Do you hold others to the same?  In the same way that a teenage girl needs to drop the ideal of a thin physique in order to be worthy, what are some standards that you need to drop in order to create a healthier ministry?

About Heather Campbell

Heather dreamed of doing broadcast journalism, eventually taking Oprah's talk show throne. BUT that all changed when God called her to youth ministry; now she is able to utilize that crushed dream with YouthMin.Org through articles, networking, and roundtables. Heather has experience with at-risk/urban youth, girls' ministry, and now directs junior high ministry in an Indianapolis church. In her spare time, she loves: networking with fellow youth workers, St. Louis Cardinals, hanging out with her kid sister, shaking from coffee consumption, judging others' grammatical errors, and laughing at her own jokes. Read more at http://heatherleacampbell.me or follow her @heatherlea17 #womanyouthpastorswag

Comments

  1. Ben Read says:

    Good post Heather. I know I do the same as you when it comes to certain metrics in Youth Ministry, where do others think this pressure comes from?

  2. Ben Read says:

    Good post Heather. I know I do the same as you when it comes to certain metrics in Youth Ministry, where do others think this pressure comes from?

  3. Ben Read says:

    Good post Heather. I know I do the same as you when it comes to certain metrics in Youth Ministry, where do others think this pressure comes from?

  4. So true! I think maybe we set certain standards because we feel inadequate(on some level) and need to have something tangible to tell us whether we have “arrived” or not. Validation?
    We can easily SAY that our standards should be to love God with all our hearts and pursue Him first and foremost and only seek His approval, but I am not sure we even take God into account all the time when we are putting all this pressure on ourselves to fit a certain “ideal” that we have for where we should be, or what our ministries should look like.
    Incorporating Grace both to our students and ourselves, would be a good first step to loosening the hold of our “standards”. And I think it is important for students to watch us live grace out to ourselves, so they can have a tangible example of how they can do that with their own strongholds.

  5. So true! I think maybe we set certain standards because we feel inadequate(on some level) and need to have something tangible to tell us whether we have “arrived” or not. Validation?
    We can easily SAY that our standards should be to love God with all our hearts and pursue Him first and foremost and only seek His approval, but I am not sure we even take God into account all the time when we are putting all this pressure on ourselves to fit a certain “ideal” that we have for where we should be, or what our ministries should look like.
    Incorporating Grace both to our students and ourselves, would be a good first step to loosening the hold of our “standards”. And I think it is important for students to watch us live grace out to ourselves, so they can have a tangible example of how they can do that with their own strongholds.

    1. Heather Lea Campbell says:

      I definitely think there are some psychological implications of inadequacy! And I think youth pastors consistently seek validation, because we rarely get it. And Grace for myself is something that I ask more for every day, otherwise how can I have it for others? How do I expect them to love and respect themselves if I don’t visibly love and respect myself? GREAT THOUGHTS! :)

  6. So true! I think maybe we set certain standards because we feel inadequate(on some level) and need to have something tangible to tell us whether we have “arrived” or not. Validation?
    We can easily SAY that our standards should be to love God with all our hearts and pursue Him first and foremost and only seek His approval, but I am not sure we even take God into account all the time when we are putting all this pressure on ourselves to fit a certain “ideal” that we have for where we should be, or what our ministries should look like.
    Incorporating Grace both to our students and ourselves, would be a good first step to loosening the hold of our “standards”. And I think it is important for students to watch us live grace out to ourselves, so they can have a tangible example of how they can do that with their own strongholds.

    1. HeatherLeaCampbell says:

      I definitely think there are some psychological implications of inadequacy! And I think youth pastors consistently seek validation, because we rarely get it. And Grace for myself is something that I ask more for every day, otherwise how can I have it for others? How do I expect them to love and respect themselves if I don’t visibly love and respect myself? GREAT THOUGHTS! :)

  7. Chad Dillon says:

    Thank you for this Heather. These are things I need to hear. It is easy to build up our own expectations when in reality, we are the only ones that have these for ourselves. If we are realistic as youth pastors it helps our students see they need to be realistic also. It also makes us more joyful.

  8. Chad Dillon says:

    Thank you for this Heather. These are things I need to hear. It is easy to build up our own expectations when in reality, we are the only ones that have these for ourselves. If we are realistic as youth pastors it helps our students see they need to be realistic also. It also makes us more joyful.

    1. Heather Lea Campbell says:

      I agree! Once we drop those standards and come back to reality, we can truly experience joy.

  9. Chad Dillon says:

    Thank you for this Heather. These are things I need to hear. It is easy to build up our own expectations when in reality, we are the only ones that have these for ourselves. If we are realistic as youth pastors it helps our students see they need to be realistic also. It also makes us more joyful.

    1. HeatherLeaCampbell says:

      I agree! Once we drop those standards and come back to reality, we can truly experience joy.

  10. Allen Posey says:

    I had a conversation yesteray with another yp and I was saying oh I’m not a numbers person, but whenhe said his number in my head all I was thinking was haha our youth group is bigger,

    1. Heather Lea Campbell says:

      uh oh! I think we all do that sometimes. Hopefully you got something good from this :)

    2. I don’t think there is an issue with wanting a big youth group, as long as you want it for the right reason. If your reason for wanting a big group is to brag, that’s an issue. I want a large group because the more kids in youth group, the more kids there are that are being exposed to the Gospel. They have the ability to get into places we adults cannot go. Does that makes sense? It does in my head.

  11. Allen Posey says:

    I had a conversation yesteray with another yp and I was saying oh I’m not a numbers person, but whenhe said his number in my head all I was thinking was haha our youth group is bigger,

  12. Allen Posey says:

    I had a conversation yesteray with another yp and I was saying oh I’m not a numbers person, but whenhe said his number in my head all I was thinking was haha our youth group is bigger,

    1. HeatherLeaCampbell says:

      uh oh! I think we all do that sometimes. Hopefully you got something good from this :)

      1. Allen Posey says:

        yes, I did

    2. Jonathan Pearson says:

      I don’t think there is an issue with wanting a big youth group, as long as you want it for the right reason. If your reason for wanting a big group is to brag, that’s an issue. I want a large group because the more kids in youth group, the more kids there are that are being exposed to the Gospel. They have the ability to get into places we adults cannot go. Does that makes sense? It does in my head.

  13. philbell says:

    Heather! Great post! Thanks for your authenticity! Thanks for helping me realize some of my unrealistic standards!

    1. Heather Lea Campbell says:

      Thanks Phil! I hope that we can grow together as a community!

  14. philbell says:

    Heather! Great post! Thanks for your authenticity! Thanks for helping me realize some of my unrealistic standards!

    1. HeatherLeaCampbell says:

      Thanks Phil! I hope that we can grow together as a community!

  15. […] Standards in Youth Ministry What standards do you hold to as a youth worker? […]