Tag Archives: inside the mind of youth pastors

‘inside the mind of youth pastors’ blog tour

insidethemind1i reviewed mark riddle‘s book, inside the mind of youth pastors, here on ysmarko back when i read it. but now it’s out! and i agreed to be a part of mark’s blog tour for the book.

since mark and i have been friends for a long time, i thought it would be fun to interview him. so, here it is!

marko: dude, we’ve talked for years about rethinking youth ministry. youth ministry 3.0 is my thinking about the church into new ways of thinking and doing youth ministry, and you helped be refine many of those ideas. in what ways is ‘inside the mind of youth pastors’ your contribution to this movement? why did you write about staffing a youth ministry in a church? is it just because you dream about administration?

riddle: I’ll let you in on a little secret. I haven’t waited my whole life to write about staffing a youth ministry. To be blunt, staffing isn’t something I’m all that passionate about. I am, however, passionate about youth pastors and sustainable youth ministries. I’ve had a unique perspective for a few years in which I can step back and look at youth ministry from a 30,000 foot view. What I saw was amazing individuals called to youth ministry consistently diving into situations that at best were limited, and at worst were toxic. I noticed that there was only so much the average youth pastor could change in a church, regardless of the number of books, seminars, leadership courses or how hard they tried to change the system. The system was to strong mostly because of the difficulty of truly engaging church leaders into the conversation. From my perspective the only way to really see new things happen, or to move into YM 3.0 is to engage church leaders into the conversation, but there was a major barrier that consistently kept church leaders from entering to the extent they need to. Most saw youth ministry as a staffing issue. A conversation about great youth ministry in most churches is short circuited by a conversation about staffing. When staffing is the first question it keeps church leaders from engaging to the extent they need to be involved in the solution. Great youth ministry isn’t really the key issue for church leaders, great staffing is. It goes something like this: “If we find the right staff person, they’ll tell us what youth ministry should look like.” So I wrote about staffing as a trojan horse. The book looks like a staffing book, but it’s really radically rethinking youth ministry in staffing language. It’s only a start frankly, but I hope it will open the door for church leaders to dream about YM 3.0.

marko: so you don’t think reading my book will fix everything?

riddle: (silence)

marko: fine. uh, in the book you write about the role of a youth pastor in two contexts, church a and church b. can you briefly describe those ideas?

riddle: Church A believes the responsibility for the spiritual formation of youth belongs to the staff, in this case the youth pastor. These churches will talk about equipping, and recruiting volunteers for ministry, but the buck stops with the staff person.

Church B says the responsibility for the spiritual formation of youth belongs to the parents and community of the church. It’s the very real manifestation of the moments when an infant is dedicated and the parents promise to God and the church that they will raise the child in the way of Christ. In those moments the congregation says they will help. Youth ministry (and children’s) ministry is directly related to those holy moments. Church B may hire a youth pastor, but their role is very different from Church A.

marko: is there a church a-b, baby?

riddle (ignoring me, and continuing): What’s interesting is most churches often talks like Church B, but function like Church A.

marko: what are the implications being church a or church b? is it more than who’s first in the yellow pages?

riddle: Church A revolves around the youth pastor. They are the hub of the youth ministry. Every new idea, vision, program, administrative detail, volunteer recruited and relationship with kids all come from the youth pastor. When the youth pastor leaves, the youth ministry struggles or collapses. It generally struggles until someone with a new vision and values comes in as a staff person and becomes the next hub. There’s quite a price for this kind of ministry in terms of volunteers, parents, kids, trust, and sustainability. Church A is the result of a transaction between parents and staff. While most youth pastors complain that parents drop kids off and have given up responsibility for the spiritual formation of their kids, youth pastors gladly take that responsibility upon their shoulders and in many ways enable parents.

Church B, however, produces engagement. The role of youth pastor then becomes different dependent upon the gifts of the pastor and the community. It’s not built around the staff, so it’s more sustainable. In the churches I work with who become Church B, they can go a long time without staff. Many go for 16+ months and continue to thrive. The youth pastor in this kind of church receives a wonderful gift. They get to be themselves and let the church own the ministry. They can dream with a team, while not being burdened to function outside their passions and capacities.

marko: your company, the riddle group, does consulting for churches all over the country, what exactly do you do?

riddle: We help churches who function like Church A, become Church B. That’s all we do. We aren’t interested so much in the latest program or trend in youth ministry, we help churches own their youth ministry. We help churches make youth ministry important. We help church leaders think in new ways about youth and become more engaged in the conversation to improve this important ministry.

marko: and where did you come up with the name for ‘the riddle group’? i don’t understand it. is it, like, “riddle me this?” like, a batman reference?

riddle: (more silence)

marko: (sigh) ok, what does leadership in church b look like?

riddle: Leadership is Church B is very different than in Church A. In Church A command and control is pretty common. The leader (read: modern title for pastor) names the hill the ministry and volunteers will take. This could be a new program, new service, new priority etc. Then the leader spends time getting buy-in, in attempts to align the people of the church with their vision. This is what we call “vision-casting” and is a persuasive technique that focuses on involvement in our ideas. The problem with this kind of leadership is legion. It’s the main way in which we think of leadership in the church these days at big conferences and it’s they way most of the published pastors try to lead their churches. I recently heard a story of one of these published pastors in an interview describe his understanding of leadership. He said something like, “We’re at a banquet and everyone is at the table waiting to eat. The pastor is the dude with the food.” That pretty much sums up Church A mentality. The pastor is God’s chosen vehicle to give the people what they need. While this is the dominant model presented to us at catalytic kinds of conferences, I don’t think it really produces disciples like we’re called to and I think it robs the church of the joy of being the church.

Church B leaders don’t start with their ideas, or the gaps in the ministry they see need improvement. They convene a conversation and see who shows up. Then as a community they look around the room and see who loves youth, what they’re passionate about and finds ways to set them free. Church B leaders refuse to take on responsibility when people try to give it to them when it isn’t theirs. They redirect it. They aren’t the dude (and dudettes) with the food. They are recognize that everyone in the church has wonderful dreams and gifts to give to youth. Which have often been driven from them through our constant drumming or our vision and style of leadership into them. I love this subject and it’s the focus of a Learning Lab I’m leading in Tulsa in late April.

marko: thanks, mark. i’d like to make one suggestion to you. maybe you should change the name of ‘the riddle group’ to ‘we’ll help you hire a youth pastor who will fix all your problems group, llc’. you don’t even have to credit me if you use that, ’cause i’m just that gracious.

i think he hung up. but it might have just been that the call got dropped.

inside the mind of youth pastors

Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors: A Church Leaders Guide to Staffing and Leading Youth Pastors, by Mark Riddle

ok — i need to start with a few disclaimers:

1. mark riddle is a friend of mine who i care about quite a bit.

2. this book was published by ys. i don’t write too many blog book reviews of ys books, because i try to keep this blog from being too overly marketing-y. i DO publish them from time to time, though, and felt this one was worth it, since i actually read the entire book!

3. this book releases in january! (sorry, you’ll have to wait!)

i’d known this book was in development for a couple years (since i know mark, and since i know our publishing schedule), and i’ve been looking forward to it. i’m not sure how well it will sell, since it’s a book — primarily — for church leaders (senior pastors and such) who oversee youth pastors, or are looking to hire one; but, i think it’s one of those books that just had to be written. and, this is clear: this is a book that will be immensely helpful to those who read it. i expect we’ll be hearing thanks from senior pastors and churches who find this book helps them break the cycle of bad assumptions, bad hiring processes, and bad hires. i think this book will help senior pastors and youth pastors get along better. and i think it will help youth pastors make better choices in “accepting a call” to a church.

mark writes clearly, in short chapters. the book can be read straight through, or in a non-linear fashion. depending on who’s doing the reading, you might want to choose our own adventure through these ideas. there’s good humor, and lots of stories, and a wad of helpful tools, ideas, suggested practices and processes.

so, here’s my suggestion: pastors who oversee youth workers really need to read this book. and youth pastor should pick up a couple copies of this book (honestly, i’m not just trying to sell it — i really do believe this) and ask your supervisor if they’d be willing to read it concurrently with you, and meet to talk through the ideas. it could do wonders for opening lines of communication on crucial issues about effective youth ministry, as it pertains to the role of a youth pastor.

thanks, mark, for working so hard to give us such a helpful resource.

here’s the website for mark’s consulting organization, the riddle group.

and here’s mark’s blog (which i have in my bloglines, and read daily).

monday morning update, october 6, 2008

the weekend that was: jeannie was up in pasadena visiting a friend for the weekend, so it was officially “daddy weekend.” that means – in the oestreicher family lexicon – a weekend of normally unapproved debauchery. extra quantities of screens (tv, movies, games, computer), horrible food choices, and stuff like that. so: liesl had lots on, so it was basically me and max. we got mario kart for wii, and played that a lot; we walked up to our town’s oktoberfest (“the largest 3-day oktoberfest west of the mississippi!”) both evenings for dinner; max made chicken nuggets for breakfast saturday, and we went to baskin robbins for lunch (yes, ice cream for lunch). along the way, i watched two sad football games where the only two teams i care about (university of michigan and the san diego chargers) lost, because they played so horribly. and i got a 60-minute massage saturday afternoon (jeannie gave me a 6-pack of one-hour certificates for xmas last year, and i cashed one in this weekend — the masseuse came to our house, and set up in the back house). sunday afternoon was honey-do list stuff, then home church in the evening. then, late last night, i took off on a 40 hour silent retreat.

where i am at the moment: i’m in non-blogging land, actually. this post was set to go live monday morning, because i’m not actually here to post it. i have known, for a few weeks, that i’m living on the edge, physically, emotionally, spiritually. and i started to realize that going into the sacramento nywc in this condition would be a really, really bad choice, and potentially harmful. i was worried about being so over-the-edge that i would either burn out, or — in my weariness — fall back to my default arrogant prick self. about a week ago i looked at my calendar for today, and realized it was totally empty. that’s when i decided to wedge in a short silent retreat. i considered a place i’ve gone in the desert, and a place i’ve gone near the coast, and landed on the coastal place. so, last night i drove up, and started a 40-ish hour time of silence, prayer, reading, thinking, and sleep. i’ll drive back down tuesday late morning, and just go to work. i’m hoping this time will recalibrate, rejuvenate, detoxify, and refresh me.

on my to-do list this week: uh, there’s this little thing called the national youth workers convention. we have three of ’em. the first one, in sacramento, is this week. starts friday (with additional programs beginning thursday). i’m flying up wednesday afternoon, and coming home monday afternoon. jeannie and the kids are coming up friday evening through monday afternoon. to complicate things a bit more, we have a brand new spanish youth workers convention this weekend also! we’ve been doing our convencion internacional lideres jovenes in argentina and guatemala for a number of years. but this year we added a third spanish event, in dallas. it was unfortunate that they ended up on the same weekend. saturday morning, i leave sacramento and fly to dallas. i’ll do a general session there saturday afternoon, and spend the evening there. sunday morning, i fly back to the sacramento nywc. whew!

procrastinating about: at the moment, i’m still procrastinating about my general session talk for the convention.

book i’m in the midst of: finished my lobotomy this weekend (will post about that soon), and am still in the middle of the almost moon. also plan on reading mark riddle’s new book (which comes out in january, or something like that), called inside the mind of youth pastors, today; and i brought along cathleen falsani’s sin boldly, and hope to get to it also.

music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: not normally a big hip-hop listener, two alt-hop (is that a term, or did i just make it up?) have caught my attention in the last couple weeks:
my friend bob sent me an itunes gift of “dear science” by the band, “tv on the radio.” really creative and complex stuff — unpredictable.
then i’ve also had the MIA album, Kala, on heavy rotation. the song “paper airplanes” has been on constant play on san diego alt rock stations, but the album is really, primarily a mash-up of alt/modern rock and hip-hop. very, very cool stuff.

next trip: i’m in north county san diego for a couple nights as i post this; but my next real trip is wednesday, for the national youth workers convention in sacramento.

how i’m feeling about this week: excited, stressed, hopeful, energized, weary, anticipatory, nervous, and probably 60 other emotions.