I don’t think that most youth workers are habitual liars, and I’m certain that we don’t mean to be.
But it’s not too rare to find a youth worker who makes inflated promises, empty threats, and unfulfilled policies.
We’re not perfect, and every now and again, something is going to happen differently than we said it was going to. That’s okay if it happens infrequently. But if you’re telling any of these three untruths on a regular basis, even if you don’t realize it, you might already be dealing with the consequences.
Here are the three most common lies that youth leaders tell (and how it’s hurting ourselves and our ministries.)
Lie #1 – “If anyone plays a prank on this trip, you’ll be sent home. Period.”
This is the lie that I have told more than any other lie, and it’s not really about playing pranks. In an effort to curb behavior, we often threaten consequences that we’re not totally prepared to follow through on.
I’ve seen dozens of youth workers espouse zero tolerance for certain behaviors; then when it happens, the student receives a stern talking to and a warning.
The problem with empty threats is that it doesn’t take students long to figure you out. Consequences won’t curb behavior if you have a reputation for failing to carry them out.
And then when you finally decide to bring down the hammer, you’ll have to deal with students – and their parents – wondering why you came down so hard on their kid after letting so many others go.
Lie #2 – “Tonight’s youth group is going to be awesome/epic/bonkers/off-the-chain/etc…”
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been to a ministry event that drastically oversold itself, I’d literally have tens of dollars, and if you think about it, that’s a lot of events.
People in The Church World seem to think that marketing is just attaching fancy adjectives to things that we already do. Trouble is, we do that so often that we strip those words completely of meaning. If everything is awesome, then nothing is.
The problem happens when you really are trying to do something big and unique and special. What words do you have left to describe it? You’ve already wasted all the best adjectives on random Sundays in November because you thought they’d help you drive attendance.
Calling your Bible study “epic” because this week you’re bringing Doritos and Arnold Palmers might be a bit of an oversell.
Next time, when you try to describe your truly amazing event as “epic”, students think it’s just a normal youth night, because that’s what happened the last time you used that word.
Lie #3 – “The deadline for this event is in ONE WEEK.”
I know youth workers who claim that families missing deadlines is their biggest frustration.
Because it creates extra work, annoyance, shuffling, and replanning to sneak a student into an event after the deadline. I like to point out that is almost no extra work to simply deny a student who attempts to register after the deadline.
Trouble is, if you always let students in after the deadline, they’ll learn quickly to ignore deadlines. That creates more headaches for you, and could lead to even bigger problems when you’re running an event with a hard deadline and zero wiggle room.
It’s a good idea to ask yourself if you’re really going to enforce a deadline, and if you’re not, don’t call it a deadline. You want people to see your deadlines as an immediate call-to- action, not a watered-down suggestion.
Now I’d love to hear yours.
What are some of the other things we say that might not be totally true?
We get so much spam on our blog comments that we can’t approve any comments here. So Facebook is a better way to go.
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Aaron Helman is on a mission to end youth worker burnout by providing the training and resources that you haven’t been taught… until now. Smarter Youth Ministry exists to help you learn how to manage their time and resources better so that you can do more ministry with less frustration. All of that having been said, you most likely know him as the creator of “Lamentation or Taylor Swift Lyric.”