The Power of Staying When speaking to churches and leaders I always emphasize that one of the keys to keeping generations active in their churches is by making constants in their lives. One sad fact is that generational ministers are generally very short term. The average stay for a youth minister in many denominations is eighteen months. Some young people over the course of religious training have had countless leaders and pastors. No depth, roots, meaningful mentorship, and discipleship happen in short term relationships. We need longer term workers.
Over the years I have met several young men and women from a particular church. I have noticed that they had a depth of spiritual health that is not always seen. I soon discovered what many of them attributed their spiritual health on. I asked one of these young men to share the following story.
Don’t hate me! Promise? Ok here we go, I had the same youth pastor (same church) for 20 years! Still love me? If that doesn’t seem like a big deal then you most likely are new to the world of student ministry and church life.
I thought having the same youth pastor my whole life was normal, I mean at age 12 I started attending Shiloh Youth and then starting help at age 19 as a single guy, then when I got married at age 25 we both helped my youth pastor as volunteers and then at age 32 he told me that I was the new youth pastor (I stress the word TOLD).
I believe that one person can still make a difference! I also believe that making an impact is rarely attained in one event or over the short term. I believe to really affect lives and people you have to spend decades showing up day after day, week after week, year after year with all the effort, excellence and love you can offer. Pastor Bruce Belair did just that for me and thousands of others. Excuse me while I brag on him but he served as youth pastor of Shiloh Youth at Rock Church for over 23 years. He pressed past hurts and attitudes and offenses both his own and those aimed at him. He pressed past great victories and achievements where others would have stopped to gloat. He simply loved us, shared his life with us and preached the bible every week. His story is a rare one, but it should be a common one.
I know I am where I am because he just wouldn’t give up, so now as I walk out of my office (his old office) I see a sign I had made that says “Paying it back” which reminds me that change isn’t in the sermon or blog it’s achieved in decades of loving God and students.
Mike Miller – Shiloh Youth – www.shilohyouth.ca
There is power in thinking long term. Churches need to foster these types of ministers, whether paid, or volunteer. It is very obvious that generational pastors are too transient and temporary. Churches must work to entice generational ministers to stay for longer terms in a local assembly. If you are one of these ministers you need to understand that your effectiveness grows the longer you are in a location.
One must wonder if a local church’s generational ministries, in some cases, would be better served (and more people retained) if the generational leaders were congregation members. There is a greater possibility of a member staying for a longer duration in a local assembly than a present day generational minister. This is often a very freeing thought for most churches who cannot afford a generational worker. Consistency can be more important than apparent giftings.