3 Difficult Truths Youth Ministers Will Face

My head was ready to explode.  I just could not figure out how to meet the room requests for the upcoming retreat.  There were teens who wanted to be with others.  And ones who didn’t want to be with the teens who wanted to be with them.  It was time to face the difficult truth that not everyone was going to be happy. (How to stop being a people pleaser, click here)

No matter how hard you try there are a few things that are impossible in youth ministry.  These impossible tasks or goals are also known as difficult truths.  If you fight them you’ll grow frustrated.  If you embrace them you’ll be able to:

  • Endure the hard times.
  • Learn quickly from mistakes.
  • Trust others (including God).
  • Grow a stronger team.
  • Share your wisdom with others in the field.

You could create an extensive list of all the brutal facts a youth minister will face.  But three that need to be learned early on are:

DIFFICULT TRUTH #1 – RESULTS AND GROWTH TAKE TIME

This is not only a difficult truth to face but a frustrating one.  There is a lot of pressure to produce instantly.  To get results and to build health in your ministry you need to embrace persistence and patience.

In Jim Collin’s Good To Great he uses the Flywheel Analogy to drive home what needs to be done.  Find the right strategies and the right people, then just keep turning the wheel.  One day it will click and all the work you poured in will be worth it.

DIFFICULT TRUTH #2 – YOU CAN’T DO EVERYTHING BUT YOU CAN RUIN EVERYTHING

Youth ministry is not meant to be done on your own.  Unfortunately, you don’t always recognize this until you hit rock bottom.  Surround yourself with men and women you trust.  People who will pour into you and people you can invest in.  They’ll extend your capacity and endurance.

The difficult truth is when you stand in the way.  While you cannot do everything you can ruin it all.  Make sure those people you surround yourself with hold you accountable.  Ask them to keep you focused on what’s most important.

DIFFICULT TRUTH #3- YOU CAN’T SAVE EVERY TEENAGER 

This is probably the most difficult truth to face in youth ministry.  You might fight and fight to save a student.  You tell yourself, “If I could only get them here on a Sunday…”  The truth is that God gave us all free will.  If he can’t force you to choose, what makes you think you can do that with a teenager?

Instead of trying to save every teenager trust in God.  Pray for the right words at the most sensitive moments.  Pray for the right people who might reach a teenager you can’t connect with.  Don’t give up hope, but also understand that youth ministry is a spiritual battle.

Do not hide or avoid the difficult truths.  Lean in and go deeper in your relationship with Christ.  Study other great leaders and keep record of the journey.  At first it might be hard, but in the end it’s worth it.

Please share your thoughts.  What are the difficult truths you’ve faced in your tenure of youth ministry?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Patty

    Very early on as a newbie YM I learned I cannot and should not try to save every teen. That job is for God.

    • Patty, thanks for sharing the truth you faced. It’s a hard one I think we all had to deal with.