25 Ways To Create A Crisis
By the late EG von Trutzschler | Spectrum Ministries | San Diego, California
Building a successful youth ministry isn’t easy. Success requires working hard and using your head. There is no sense in compounding the effort by shooting yourself in the foot, or worse. Here are 25 ways that a youth leader can create a crisis. Avoid them at all costs!
- Assuming: Don’t assume that things will work as planned. Planning without considering possible problems is foolish. Always have a back up plan and an alternate direction. You look bad when “unforeseen conditions” strip you of your leadership. Murphy’s Law (“If something can go wrong, it will”) can catch you, but O’Reilly’s Law is worse: “Murphy was an optimist!”
- Public Put-Downs: You win no popularity points by putting down a kid or small group in public or from the platform – even if they deserve it. The sympathy of the group will invariably go with the target of the put down.
- Blowing a Confidence: When you share information given you in confidence, you quickly lose respect from the embarrassed individual and ultimately from the whole group. Your integrity and credibility are shot! Reading private notes or correspondence publicly, no matter how funny it seems, will backfire every time. Here’s what you do if the teen is going to tell you something very confidential and asks you to promise never to tell. Before he reveals his information say, “Of course I won’t betray your confidence. However, if it is something too big for us to handle, you will have to trust my love for you and my wisdom to do what I feel necessary for your own good or the good of the others involved. You have to give me that liberty.”
- Putting Down Parents or Family: Blood is truly thicker than water. You can’t win siding with a kid as he complains about his parents or family. Better to reinforce his gut level feeling that his family is concerned about him and that they want to trust him and love him.
- Losing Your Temper: Blowing up in front of your group or with one or more of your youth does irreparable harm to your integrity and right to leadership. You can’t undo a scene like that! Never blow your cool! Your kids may forgive you, but they will never forget the occasion.
- Blaming: Think and get the facts right before you lay any blame on anyone. We aren’t called to be detectives. First, take time to cool off. Then realize that, as the leader, you may have to accept the blame – deserved or not. Deal with the responsible party/parties later and privately. null
- Punishing: Never punish the “whole” for the actions of the “few” in the hope that peer pressure will correct the “guilty” party. The group will see this as very unfair! If pushed, this can unite them against you. Deal with “problem” kids as individuals. Act promptly and privately.
- Not Backing Your Staff: Never let your staff take some blame that you “mutually” share. Never cut down your staff individually or collectively. Never ever cut them down publicly! Your lack of support will dishearten them, make them indecisive, cause some or all to quit, or galvanize them against you. Far better for you to take the responsibility, deserved or undeserved.
- Failing to admit you’re wrong: No leader can afford the luxury of covering up his pride. A private mistake demands a private apology; a public mistake demands a public apology. The longer you wait to apologize, the more you lose.
- Being Tardy: Being late or absent to your own activities and programs gives a clear signal to your group of staff and teens that you yourself aren’t interested in that program or that you’re not really interested in them. Be present, prepared, and early to your activities.
- Implementing the Wrong Idea: Implementing another man’s program, idea, or formula in your group can be disastrous. Because it worked great for him does not mean it will work for you and your group. Go slow.
- Being a “Buddy”: Acting like a kid instead of an adult cancels your leadership. Reducing yourself to your group’s maturity level to gain their acceptance will be at the expense of their respect and your authority. Kids want you to be what you are, a responsible mature leader. Invariably, a “buddy” or “good guy” cannot discipline and control his group. No effective youth man can afford to “kick back” with his youth group.
- Pushing Kids: Being a “boss” or a “mom” or, worse, a “sergeant” by forcing, obligating, and sometimes intimidating your kids into doing what you want or what they don’t feel they can do, aren’t equipped to do, or flat out don’t want to do, will at best get half-hearted results, result in a no-show or force a confrontation! A good youth worker knows there are other ways of motivating kids.
- Being Invisible: It seems few ever think of this subtle way to be bumped from ministry. Your church or supporting agency must know what you are doing and be convinced of its value. Youth ministry isn’t seen by the congregation or the elders/deacons and many times even by the pastor. Youth work is during the week, and often takes place away from the church. You work with many kids whose parents aren’t in the church. Take advantage of your monthly church paper and place colorful reports and photos of your youth program and activities. In staff meetings bring the pastor(s) up-to-date on the youth ministry. Communicate your passion and progress with your deacons and elders. Communication isn’t an option; it’s essential to present a visible and productive youth program to your church and/or your supporters. To maintain support and silence critics, communicate!
- Borrowing Money: Borrowing budgeted money for personal use or using church/organizational equipment for your personal us is very foolish. Nothing good can come of this.
- Running an Independent Program: Drawing your youth away from your parent organization, teaching a different doctrine, or philosophy, or becoming your own identity will ultimately result in your dismissal.
- Neglecting Key Kids: Neglecting the children of your pastor, deacons or the politically influential will have trouble brewing in no time. Parents believe everything their kids tell them about the youth program – good or bad, right, or wrong. If the “key” kids are dissatisfied with you and/or the program, you’re out!
- Ignoring the Writing on the Wall: Failure to read “trouble signs” and to correct potential problems in time sets you up for a future crash that can be fatal to your ministry. Little signals and hints from key church leadership should be seriously considered.
- Inflating: Don’t get caught in the deadly cycle of “bigger and better” programs, speakers, videos, and fun activities. Trying to outdo yourself can exhaust even the best youth worker to say nothing of his budget. Since what attracts your kids to your program will keep them in your program, make sure you attract kids by using ministry events of true value.
- Using a Show of Hands: Having your kids raise their hands to indicate how many will come to an activity can kill your activity right there! If the wrong people raise their hands or if people are slow to raise their hands, you are dead! Instead, have a person who is going to the activity give the announcement about it.
- Canceling Your Meeting: Don’t cancel! Find it hard to cancel! Canceling gives the wrong signal!
- Reckless Driving: Driving recklessly can kill you (and others). Remember the other side of hot driving; your kids will tell their folks how you drive, and kids exaggerate! And parents always believe their kids! Always be safe and responsible in all areas of your program, even if the kids plead otherwise! To be respected is better than being popular.
- Having Favorites: Hanging out and working with your favorites can backfire, especially if your favorites aren’t the “influential” kids of the church.
- Seeing Girls Alone: If you’re a guy, never be alone in a closed room (or area) with a girl or even two! Doing so looks bad and can end in disaster! Be cautious. Falling for one of the kids in your youth program will cancel your ministry in short order.
- Going for Compliant Kids: Going after easy, nice, obedient “ho-hum” kids may seem the best course – but take another look. Leader material is anything but compliant. Future “movers and shakers” move and shake and often at your expense! In most cases, those called troublemakers will be your best future leaders! Go after leaders or you will end up with nothing but a weekly group of non-committed attendees!
Note: “Von” was youth pastor emeritus for Clairemont Emmanuel Baptist Church in San Diego – he was a genuine Indiana Jones explorer-evangelist and the director of Spectrum Ministries, which works with the desperately poor in Mexico’s border towns. He was a popular speaker at camps and mission conferences. If you want a role model for lifelong youth ministry, Von’s your man.