Everything I Needed for Youth Ministry I Learned from My Brothers
“You go first; you’re the smallest.” As a kid, I heard these words hundreds of times whenever my brothers needed to test one of their ridiculous inventions. Whether it was jumping out of a tree into a leaf pile or zipping through the forest on a “zip-line” made from a closet hanger, I was always the guinea pig. After all, not only was I was the smallest, but I was also the most eager. No matter how many times our creative adventures failed, I was the little sister, so I always obliged.
Now that I’m a youth ministry leader, my creative adventures look very different (hopefully). But when I really think about it, I realize how much my older brothers prepared me for my current role. So for those of you who aren’t privileged enough to have older brothers, I’ll pass on some of that training to you (with a little help from some rose-colored glasses).
Learn to react. Here is a small taste of the world of older brothers: giant toads in my bed, fart spray from a can (that stuff can kill), and endless jump-out-from-behind-something-and-scare-your-pants-off moments. After a while, you learn how to react to life’s surprises. Sure, you never quite get past the sudden gasp or the good scream, but if you take a step back, you can usually get a laugh from them, too.
Surprises are a huge part of youth ministry. Things rarely go as planned, especially if students are involved in the planning. So when plans fall apart and students surprise you (notice that I said “when,” not “if”), take a moment to enjoy it. If no one’s getting hurt and it’s appropriate, you’ll probably look back on this as a key bonding moment—but only if you learn to take surprises in stride.
Grow thick skin. Dear sisters-in-law: that sweet, sensitive man you married wasn’t always that way. He learned those things through years of testing—on yours truly—what does and doesn’t make girls cry. You’re welcome.
“It’s not worth it to get mad at every comment that rubs you the wrong way.”
In the meantime, my skin grew a lot thicker. The small offenses didn’t hurt quite so bad. But I feel like I live in a world of paper-thin skin. How many blogs have you read recently titled “Things You Should Never Say to __________”? Thick skin is not easy to come by.
Even when there are many good reasons to get angry and fight, for your own sanity, remember that there are just as many reasons not to. Don’t pout. Don’t assume the worst. Choose the right battles, and be gracious. It’s not worth it to get mad at every comment that rubs you the wrong way. It sucks the joy out of life.
Take risks. As a child, I was a risk taker—not because I wanted to be, but because of those words I mentioned earlier: “You go first; you’re the smallest.” And I learned a lot from my risks. For example, you shouldn’t jump out of a tree with a plastic bag for a parachute. Also, zip-lines require really sturdy rope.
Somewhere along the way—probably after my brothers moved out—I stopped taking regular risks. And when I didn’t take risks in my everyday life, it became harder to take them in my spiritual life. Can you name the last five risks you took? Is risk taking a regular part of your life? Following Christ is a call out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. There’s a lot of risk involved: taking up your cross, not conforming to the world, speaking boldly, acting graciously, and more.
So as my brothers taught me, take risks! Take them regularly! Take your spouse on a date that requires both of you to do something new, like rock climbing or mountain biking or oil painting or karaokeing. Ask that girl or guy out. Pray risky prayers. Have that conversation where you tell you-know-who about Jesus. Risks give you a totally new perspective, and they stretch your faith muscles.
“Following Christ is a call out of our comfort zones and into the unknown.”
Keep up. I was always trying to keep up with my brothers. I wanted to do everything they could do. When they were walking, I was running. When they were lazily riding their bikes, I was doing the Tour de France.
That’s not a bad way to live. It’s the “work hard, play hard” mentality, and in everyday life it goes like this: move with purpose. Don’t drag your feet. Don’t procrastinate or avoid uncomfortable conversations. If you don’t get the important things done now, they will creep into your time off, your family time, and your refuel time. So when you set out to work, make sure you work with focus, urgency, and excellence. Avoided tasks are like looming clouds that will only cast shadows over the other parts of your life.
What are some of the things you learned from your older siblings? Or maybe you learned some youth ministry lessons from being an older sibling. If so, please share your lessons in the comments below!
About the Author
Angie Franklin is the publisher at LeaderTreks and has worked in youth ministry since 2000. She loves serving youth workers who are in the trenches by providing them with practical resources. She is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and now lives in West Chicago, Illinois with her husband, Doug, and their dog, Diesel (who they… Read More