Learning From the “Godfather” of Youth Ministry

Learning from the

Recently I was on a call with a youth pastor. He was explaining how frustrating it was for him—working in a church when the church politics, tradition and policies get in the way of him doing youth ministry.

Basically, the church is an obstacle to reaching students.

I have been here. And I know most of my readers have experienced the same thing.

What does a youth pastor do when he/she is feeling down and discouraged?

You read and watch the youth ministry Godfather—Mike Yaconelli.

Reading and watching Mike is basically getting an injection of youth ministry steroids into your veins. This particular youth pastor that I was chatting with  had no clue who Mike Yaconelli was.

Mike co-founded Youth Specialties and wrote many books. But these are my favorite:

Dangerous Wonder

Messy Spirituality

Devotion: The Raw Truth Journal on Following Jesus

The Core Realities of Youth Ministry

And my ultimate favorite: Getting Fired for the Glory of God

Some of you may know Mike Yaconelli and others don’t.

If you are in youth ministry you need to be exposed to MIKE YACONELLI.

Mike is the guy who advocated for youth workers from day one.

Youth ministry is really hard and Mike remindes youth pastors why it’s so important to keep loving on today’s youth regardless of the limitations our churches put on us. If you are feeling down, hopeless, fearful or ineffective, you need some Mike.

Here are a few incredible quotes by Mike:

The power of the church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The church is not made up of whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us. 

Spirituality isn’t about being finished and perfect; spirituality is about trusting God in our unfinishedness.

Spiritual growth is more than procedure, it’s a wild search for God in the midst of the tangled jungle of our souls, a search which involves a volatile mix of messy reality, wild freedom, frustrating stuckness, increasing slowness and a healthy dose of gratitude.

The church is the place where the incompetent, the unfinished and even the unhealthy are welcome. I believe Jesus agrees.

Jump first. Fear later.

I just want to be remembered as a person who loved God, who served others more than he served himself, who was trying to grow in maturity and stability.

I’m in awe of youth workers, and I think Jesus is, too. I just wish the church felt the same.

Youth group should be an adventure, a cauldron of fire and passion, an uncontainable terrifying presence of the Holy Spirit overflowing into the souls of students resulting in a volatile desire for Jesus regardless of the chaos caused by following Him!

I’m beginning to believe that if those who are called into youth ministry follow the lead of the One who called them, getting fired is inevitable. Why? Because, in general, the institutional church doesn’t get it. The institutional church has become hopelessly corporate, hopelessly tangled in a web of secularism. Instead of the church being the church, it has opted instead to be a corporation.

I want to be “dangerous” to a dull and boring religion. I want a faith that is considered “dangerous” by our predictable and monotonous culture.

Here’s the best youth ministry video of Mike:

Enjoy. Whenever you are feeling exhausted, listen to Mike!

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Jeremy Zach
Jeremy Zach easily gets dissatisfied with status quo. He reeks with passion and boredom is not in his vocabulary. He becomes wide awake when connecting with student pastors, thinking and writing about student ministry, experimenting with online technology, and working out. He is married to Mikaela and has two calico cats, Stella and Laguna. He lives in Alpharetta, Georgia and is a XP3 Orange Specialist for Orange—a division of the REthink Group. Zach holds a Communication degree from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities and Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.