My journey into being a youth pastor began a little over 15-years ago. I started as a young and inexperienced “leader.” I started this journey, knowing I just want to do something for God, and I felt a burning desire to work with teens who had experienced hurt, as I had experienced it within my own life. I wanted to connect students to God and help provide the spiritual disciples to take them from trouble and give the tools to keep them from future problems.
This journey took me to a lot of different places. I have been to more theme parks than any person actually wants to go, trail blazed a volcano to reach the top, traveled across international borders, and became known as a father-figure to countless students. I had a blast.
In the beginning, things were more comfortable, because I did not worry as much about the consequences of things I taught and did. But the more I grew, the more I came to realize the heavy burden that sits on a person who is put in charge of a population of people. Once I learned this was called leadership, I was all in. I began studying more-and-more about leadership. I got my hands on every book possible especially those of Bill Hybels.
I had a couple professors at EPIC Bible College: Professor Vaca and Professor Sallyards, who spoke leadership principles into my life and who encouraged this particular kind of growth. This may be a surprise to these professors because I have so many “favorite” professors, but their impact was a small branch that grew and eventually reached from the foundations of the tree to pierce my heart. My heart began to bleed leadership. Then there was a “chance” meeting with a Board of Director from the Disney Corporation. This conversation helped to provide even more rocket fuel to launch me to a higher stratosphere. I remember the conversation vividly—it changed my life forever. I will never think about leadership in the same way again. I went on to leadership study at the Graduate and Post-Graduate levels.
Youth ministry and leadership development go together, but the more I studied, the more I felt God doing something in my life. Student ministry is and will always be amazing, and I desire to see an ever-increasing population of students come to know Christ. But, for me, my journey as a youth pastor had to end. I found myself struggling with calling and direction. There was a pulling and a pushing all at the same time. I became a bit confused for a while too. After everything was said-and-done, I knew my journey as a youth pastor had to end, and that hurt. Some people wanted me to stay where I was because they thought I was a good youth pastor, but I knew I had to move on.
My journey as a youth pastor ended pretty abruptly after years, as I sought God’s “next” for my life. It was challenging to say goodbye to so many who had become some of my closest friends, but I knew I needed to follow God’s will for my life. This next season will be a season of great things happening in seeing people raised from sin and brought into the Kingdom of God as the Lead Pastor of Northview Church, a church plant in Davis, California. I am helping other leaders develop into stronger leaders and even training up youth pastors at the college level. God has done miraculous things in my life, and I cannot wait to see what He does through your life and your ministry.
Remember this: Never stop learning. Learning is essential to every leader, and without it, you will never grow. Growth does not mean leaving the youth ministry, as I have. Instead, growth means you have something more to offer your followers than before. In essence, you are growing what Bill Hybels wrote, “your leadership cup.” This principle tells us we cannot fit more followers into our leadership without expanding. Sure, we can add leaders around us to take on some of the followers, but what we are really doing is setting an example of maintaining for those who work alongside us too.
My desire for each of you is: Robert K. Greenleaf’s principle of Servant Leadership. This leadership is a subset of transformational leadership, as Dr. Kathleen Patterson writes in her incredible paper “Servant Leadership Theory” (a must read). Becoming a Servant Leader means becoming more like Jesus. So, in summary, my desire for you is to become more like Jesus, so you have something more to offer your followers than yesterday.