the glories of youth ministry

oh, this is just so fantastic.

a youth worker emailed me earlier this week to share a funny story. i responded that i wished i could share it with everyone on my blog, but i didn’t want to get him in trouble. but, alas, he’s a youth worker, and a gutsy one at that, and he gave me the green light.

his message to me:
on the attached pictures you will see the hole in the wall that a 45 year old volunteer put there on accident when playing around with his senior boys. I won’t go as far as to say that this is what I would consider one of the youth ministries greatest accomplishments this year, but it’s close.

but the best part was the email he received from the church business manager:
I asked [the facilities guy] to take these pictures. This vandalism was discovered this morning upstairs by the youth and elementary wing. [the facilities guy] is certain it happened last evening or afternoon as he did not see it during his rounds to close after worship. Rambunctious play does not create a hole this size. Please help us make sure children and youth are supervised at all times.

and, here, in all their youth ministry glory (i LOVE that it was a 45 year-old volunteer!), are pics of the “vandalism”.


the email comment from the volunteer who created the hole:
Please – no comments about what might have caused a hole that big. Although, for about 10 minutes I had sort of a rock start status with the teenaged boys for being able to cause so much damage with my rear end.

what damage has your youth ministry caused?

34 thoughts on “the glories of youth ministry”

  1. We have created several holes in drywall over the years. So imagine the delight of our youth when we recently went looking for ways to help local flood victims instead of Bible Study Wednesday night. The reason for the delight – they not only got to tear up a floor but got to kick holes in the drywall before removing it!

  2. Although I dont’ have pictures…
    About three months ago we decieded to create a youth cafe of sorts, but there was one problem…a 1000lbs pool table was already in the room the we wanted to be a cafe.
    So, in an increddibly smart moment, we decieded push it down the hallway into another room that was not being used.
    The problem with this is that most of our youth, all 15 of them, are 7-9th graders except a couple and almost all of them barely break 100lbs themselves but anthing can be accompished with teamwork! Right? So we were off…

    We made it through one door with much sweat and strain, and then managed to bend the threshold of another while exiting the youth room, which was later bent back with several strikes of a hammer.

    Once in the hallway, we pickup some speed and were doing great until we needed to turn into the room which would be the new home of the pool table. During the turn, a loud rip was heard (this is when I am thankful that the youth ministry room is far from all the others) anyway, the rip was the carpet in the hallway. Just the weight of the table ripped it. After placing a jr high boy to stand over the spot for any passer bys not to see the tear, we successfully got the table to its new home.

    The carpet was discovered two weeks later, and has since been glued back down, but is still very noticable. But the youth cafe looks great!

  3. Two hand-sized holes in the drywall (he needed something to stop him after the footrace!)
    Cracked windowpane (who knew blacklights for your haunted house could get so hot?)
    Broken ceiling tile (it’s all about a wonderful game called “Poop Room Soccer”)

    Those are the first three that come to mind…when I line them all up it really makes me wonder about the fact that this is ACTUALLY part of my job! God bless mistakes!

  4. I have lost track of all the chairs that were destroyed when our group played “I’ve Never” or “Shuffle Your Buns”. They seem like such innocent games… ;^)

  5. Some great worship with candles that melted all over te new carpet in the sanctuary, I spent most of the rest of the week trying various methods to get the wax up…I’m talking like 20 candles in the altar area of the sanctuary so it was very noticeable!

  6. I knew a guy that let the youth paint the church van…the results were disastrous…but it resulted in a new paint job for the van that needed painting anyway.

  7. I’m not 100% sure, but I think at least a couple of multi-vehicle accidents. Possibly some small fires. The evidence is only circumstantial though…

  8. I wouldn’t say these are my finer moments but I did get a reminder that I am only allowed one broken window per financial year not 4.
    1) Some senior high guys thought it would be a good challenge to hit golf balls over the church (who knows why?!?)
    2) I bumped one of my leaders during a game and he shattered a window that he went into
    3) A leader was trying to slow down and put hands out against window and shattered it (ironically the same)
    4) I dont actually know what happened with this one, but it didnt make me popular.

  9. Many years ago this great visionary for youth ministries, Mike Yaconelli, you may of heard of him. ;o) He told us at a YS youth training session, “If your Trustees have not made a specific “the youth can’t play that game anymore” rule, you’re not doing your job”! Last year we opened our new 15,000 sq ft Family Life Center with extra heavy duty (almost concrete) drywall. The building commitee said, “No way the youth can put a hole in this stuff”. You guessed it, one of our bigger senior high boys playing basketball hit it just right and put the same size hole as above in it just last week. Don’t tell my students thay can’t do something!!

  10. I had a senior high guy push the side window of my mini-van out into the middle of an intersection while making a left turn. His buddies quickly grabbed him and pulled him back into the van. He almost followed the window out of the van. The window shattered across the intersection, and I just kept on driving. There was about 10 seconds of dead silence, and then we all busted out laughing.

    We still laugh when we drive through that intersection.

  11. OK maybe I’m just the grumpy old man here (I’m not that much older than Marko or the YM of the original post) but I do have a problem here. Not that things get dinged, it happens. The tradition was (don’t think the current clergy will continue it) to have a formal portrait done of the rector (senior pastor). Traditional as in oil painting. Well the one of the wonderful man who led me back to church has a bit of a dent right below his nose where we whacked it with a frisbee one night.

    No what bothers me is that I see over and over YMs encouraging people to not take responsibility for damage they’ve done to the facility. How does that match up with what we’re supposed to be teaching our youth about following the Way of Christ? Stand on the tear in the carpet so no one notices then let it go for two weeks till it gets noticed without any responsibility? Leave an enormous hole in the wall so that it presumed to be vandalism? Really?

    And these are “the best moments in youth ministry”? I have a REAL problem with this folks. When we mess up in my ministry we stand up and take responsibility. We also stress that the building is not ours to break, nor is it something that we are not supposed to care about. That just reinforces the idea that youth ministry and the church are two seperate (and apparently incompatible) things.

    I’m willing to hear any reasonable argument that I’m wrong. Please spare me the “lighten up, it’s only a wall” variety though. I think it’s pretty clear I’m not buying those.

  12. jay, i’m not hearing anyone say not to take responsibility for their stuff (certainly i wasn’t suggesting that). yes, take responsibility, by all means. it’s the tendency of (some) churches to put walls and carpeting above humans that drives this kind of thing.

  13. During the summer we used to do a variety program every week. One summer one part of the program was called “Show and Throw.” One of the youth pastors would show the kids something (watermelon, computer, etc) and we would go throw it off the roof of the church to see what it would look like when it landed…

    We also tried something new one year for our New Years celebration. We took an old, dead car and spray painted all of the bad things in the world on the car. We then proceeded to smash the car. This, by the way took place in the parking lot. By the time we could find someone to come haul the car off the parking lot it had been through a lot of other stuff (think shooting practice from someone in the neighborhood). I think this was the closest that the youth pastor at the time had ever come to being fired. Sure was fun though…


  14. Marko,
    In the original story the financial person clearly didn’t know what happened, that’s how the whole “vandalism” thing comes up. And the admonition to make sure the youth are supervised (the youth didn’t do it!) At least that’s how I read it.

    In the pool table story the put a kid on the tear so no one sees it and then leave it to be discovered two weeks later.

    In Jon Jones post it’s at least implied.

    I’m going by their reported actions which seem to be to cover up and deny. What am I missing?

    I’m with you on the putting the holy carpet above people, lived through it several times. I’m just saying that a couple of these stories step over an additional line I think.

  15. Jay,

    The stories are a lot more fun when you don’t mention that you got in trouble or had money taken out of your pay or spent your days off fixing what you broke. That part takes some of the magic out of the stories.

    I just assume leaders are taking responsibility. Then you can enjoy the ‘war’ stories.

    just my take, Ruth

  16. Sigh. OK, I promise my last grumpy old coot comment. (Really, I swear to you, I’m a fun guy).
    Ruth, I would love to go along with you (trust me I am not above leaving out uncooperative details when I’m trying to make the story better) but I’m going by what a couple of these stories say directly or imply strongly. And I’m troubled that we seem so ready to sweep this under the rug. My default setting is that people do the right thing, I’m an incurable optimist. But there are three examples on this thread that seem to fall short. And we seem to be falling into “nice” mode rather than speaking the truth in love.

    Shutting up now (with no hard feelings)

  17. I once had to completely destroy a door to rescue 13 children who were trapped inside, after the door nob broke.

    I had a middle school kid jump onto a table and snap the top off.

    I had a girl try to kill a fly and instead kill a window.

    A light caught fire in our youth area because of an ill played soccer ball.

    Apparently a kid in my youth group was standing on a sink in the bathroom and broke it off the wall.

    Of course that’s over 12 years of ministry. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with the custodian and deacons.

  18. Sweet! I’m not the only one!

    We currently have about 4 holes in our youth room walls (and have patched several more). Every time it happens, I don’t get mad but just think of that video of Yac. I don’t have a rule yet, so I’m working on it, haha.

    We have laminate floors in our youth room and discovered that you can slide really well in socks. We used to play sock-footed freeze tag, which created the first hole and many more after that. I even slid and braced myself on the wall and put my hand through it (the sheet rock seems to be more sheet than rock).

  19. An eighth grader in our group was “walking briskly” through the hallway, tripped over himself, and fell into a wall and left a whole very similar to the one in the picture above!

    our facilities guy was pretty cool about it, though. adults were close by when it happened, and it really was an accident.

    90% of the time, the folks at our church are pretty good about realizing that when you’re doing ministry with kids, stuff is going to happen!

  20. Actually, my favorite story is one where the teens didn’t do the damage! I was walking down the hall and saw a busted up folding chair sitting on prominent display. The janitor had taped a note to it saying something like, “another gift from our students who don’t respect the church” or something like that. Very uncool.

    What was awesome is that another note had been taped to that from one of the leaders of an older ladies’ group. She pointed out that it was in fact one of the ladies that had broken the chair and that it’s great the church had so many teens!

  21. Broken: vases, windows, doors, van doors, carpet (my pastors son and another teen were torches with Lysol and matches in the church office and burnt the carpet. You should have heard my Pastor… “I want the teenage boy who did this in my office!!!” My response… “MMM… One of them lives in your house!”) What else, church van doors, tips of pinky finger and a wrist.

  22. I’ve broken lots of stuff in the course of the last 15 years doing youth ministry…and have had a lot of kids break stuff.
    Perhaps to curry favor with Jay Phillippi in this comment stream…I’ll say the best ‘youth ministry vandalism’ was the graffitting and destruction of 3 donated cars to raise money and collect food for a local homeless shelter in an event called ‘Destroy Hunger’…see the pics here:
    But I’ll also add, cafe chair legs suddenly buckling under the weight of kids wrestling…had a volunteer try to slid across the hood of my car for a promo video and put a permanent dent in the hood of my car with his butt…that was not so stellar.

  23. Jay,
    I understand what you’re saying. Don’t act like a four-year-old and hope nobody notices what stupid thing you did. Own up to it and take your punishment. And be more careful in the future.
    I’m not only the youth worker at our church, I am also one of the church ladies. It’s a heavy burden, being a grown up.

  24. we launched a kid through a window during WORSHIP (I think it was the “NaNa” song aka Every Move I Make) fortunately, nobody got hurt.
    the best parts about it:
    1) it was worship, we weren’t even messing around
    2) I have an awesome church – the powers that be trust me and loved it because they knew we weren’t careless or stupid (not saying the hole in the wall was) but youth – like the main story here
    3) it was one of our most mellow guys who went into the window
    4) we are a pretty serious group and rarely fall into the stereotypical youth ministry screwing around so it was a rare occurance which made it all the better

  25. Accidentally tipped over a huge, up to the heaven rafters, ladder on the sanctutary stage. Fortunately it didn’t hit the floor, the GRAND PIANO caught it! Just a randon pointy piece hit it, but square on, and took out a divit about half an inch deep and an inch in diameter. An apology and some black permanent marker made it all ok for Sunday morning.

  26. Jay, you kinda do have to lighten up. I’m not advocating not taking response sibility for your actions, far from it. There was no grand conspiracy or cover up. You gotta look back on it and laugh, apparently my sarcasm is of the subtle brand. Besides, I know the youth leaders that I learned from the most weren’t the sticklers, but the ones who after telling us we were idiots could laugh about it later and help us learn from our mistakes.

  27. Everyone,
    Sorry if I’ve been a bit of a buzz kill but I’ve been doing this a long time (20+ years) and I currently serve at the diocesan level so I see and hear from a lot of folks. Yes, it’s easy for us to joke around about this and yes I do understand. I’ve taken more than my share of hits because I’m not the “by the rules” kind of guy. I’m also aware that our sometime casual response to the rules can turn around and bite us on the butt. Yes, the youth get blamed for pretty much everything (thought it was really cool that the ladies stood up for the kids about the broken chair!). I’m just asking, as quietly and with as much charity and humor as I can muster, that we ALWAYS keep in mind that how we react is a lesson to our kids. Laughing with them later is great, do it myself, but they need to know that the laughter doesn’t excuse the behavior.

    Worst case scenario (and I’m pushing this way out on the limb, I know) – a church elder hears a youth minister raving about this really cool national figure, a guy who really understands what YM is about – Mark Ostreicher. They stop by the blog to check it out and find a set of comments where the attitude towards the care of the physical plant is, shall we say, a little casual. This ISN’T a private discussion and people might very easily take some of the subtle sarcasm the wrong way.

    I’m just sayin…

    The other thing I want to know is why in your stories “things” get broken and in mine I get broken! Two ribs, my left arm. We once dropped a leader out of a tree (not me that time)


  28. Jay
    What you say is true brother! if we make a mistake (or a whole) own up to it and move on. Jay is right and maybe we all might have a little issue with it because we ourselves feel a little sheepish when we know that we should have reported the incident.

  29. I am a “by the rules guy” which is why I get such a kick out of things when they do happen

    I try to walk the line of:

    1) respect the tools (buildings, car, etc.) God provides to use
    2) pass that respect onto our students (and staff and parent volunteers, etc.)
    3) earn the trust of the church leadership (always) and when possible of the rest of the church as well (not always possible even when it has been earned)
    4) correct when necessary, laugh when able cause some crazy funny things happen

  30. At a 2003 Superbowl party, i had a 6th grader test out what would happen if he took a swan dive into the wall. like a screen strait from Loony Tunes he crashed right through the wall and left an “Alex shaped hole in the wall” complete with spots for head, arms, and legs. Brilliant!

    This same wonderful kid plugged up all our toilets and put us out of our church offices for a few weeks while the place was dried out from the flood. I’ll never forget thinking, “Why is there water flowing into my office?” I miss him and those days so much…now. =)

  31. In the back of our main auditorium we used to have (i say used to because of the story) these old half pews. Nicely made, pretty and old. After our worship worship time, a few of the crowd type kids (is it okay to use a Simply Youth reference on here?) were hanging out in the back of the audtiorium and for some reason thought it would be good to use the pews as a launching point to see how far they could jump forward. There was a loud crack as the wood split and the pew/bench shattered beyond repair. I was not in the room at the time but the crowd kids came up to me and told me what happened. Honestly. They didn’t say we were just sitting on it and it broke. They said we were jumping on it and it broke. I said that was pretty stupid let’s go take a look. It was trashed. We had a brief conversation and told them I would need to see what would happen. Talked with my senior pastor the next day and he was disappointed but glad they had been honest. The kids showed up after school the next day with a note of apology addressed to the church. They were active in the ministry until they went off to college.
    There is a line of grace we walk with students as we offer them the forgiveness of Christ and yet hold them accountable for actions.
    I find that it is often the fringe students who respect the building and property more than the “churched” ones.

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