Well, maybe hate is too strong of a word.
I very much dislike Cracker Barrel. We are not friends.
I expect that 50% of the people that were reading this post just closed this page and went back to trying to find a super spiritual/intellectual (Supersplectual) quote to update their status with.
And that doesn’t scare me as much as the CBSWAT Team that Cracker Barrel just deployed from their Corporate Headquarters in Lebanon, TN to take me out. (I can just see them jumping out of their van and throwing checkers at me or hitting me with one of those wooden red and white slingshots they used to sell).
I haven’t always disliked Cracker Barrel though. In fact, I have very fond memories of playing checkers with the big rug-looking checker set while waiting for my food to come. Oh, and if any of my brothers are reading, I cheated ALL THE TIME.
Maybe I started disliking Cracker Barrel when a few years ago I literally ate their every Sunday night for a month and a half.
But like I said, I haven’t always disliked Cracker Barrel. In fact, when I was in college I applied for a job waiting tables there. I was planning to quit my current job at the time to go work there. I had the job, but at the last minute my current employer made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
That’s a long story with no point other than the simple fact that at that moment in time, I was as close as I’ve ever been to waiting tables. I have never waited tables other than at youth fundraising events. By the way, can you put that on a resume?
Anyway, I have never been employed on a wait staff, until I became involved in Student Ministry.
Because as Student Ministers, we are all waiters and waitressess.
We are all tasked with bringing food to the hungry. It is our job to deliver what our students need to sustain them. It is our privilege to be the ones to deliver what our students need to fill the hunger in their spirits.
We are all waiters and waitresses.
The question is: How good of a waiter are you?
Have you ever had just a horrible waiter? One that was new or didn’t know what they were doing? Or one that was just outright rude?
I’m sure you have.
How did it make you feel about the restaurant?
Did you want to go back?
Did you tell your friends about it?
The same thing happens with your Student Ministry.
How are you delivering what your students need?
Are you serving them in a way that makes them want to come back?
Are they going to tell their friends positive things about your ministry?
When people are hungry are you giving them what they need?
By the same token, have you ever had a good waiter?
What were the qualities about them that made them good at what they did?
The same qualities that make a waiter good at any restaurant you patron are the same qualities that make for a good Youth Worker.
So here they are in no particular order.
The aspects of waiting tables and Youth Ministry that make for a satisfied customer.
1. They are Friendly- This may be one of the most important aspects of being a Youth Worker. You have to be friendly. There will be times in all honesty that you want to rip one of your young peoples heads off, but you can’t let it affect your demeanor. Students respond to those that treat them with respect. Your students are more likely to open up to you if you keep a positive demeanor. Smile early and often. Your students need to see that. If you’re not excited about what your teaching, they won’t be either.
2. They Know the Menu- Nobody expects you as a Youth Worker to know everything about God and how his spirit works, but the old adage is true to an extent; you can never lead someone to a place that you have never been. You need to have a basic understanding of how to experience God before you try to lead your students to do the same. Don’t ask your students to pray everyday if you don’t. Know how God moves. Understand what you’re teaching. Walk by faith for awhile before you teach on faith. Sacrifice something before you talk about sacrifice. Worship before you try to push your students to do the same. Know the menu. Know as much as you can about how God operates.
3. They’re attentive- As a Youth Worker, one of the main things that can determine your success or failure is how well you pay attention. We have to train ourselves to keep our eyes and ears open to what is going on in our Student Ministry, in Youth Culture, in the lives of our Students, on Facebook, and on our trips. A single moment can change everything. It may be the moment you see that student crying for the first time. It may be the instant that a thought pops into your head for a new series. It may be recognizing an issue that a student is facing. To be successful in Student Ministry at any level, you have to train yourself to pay attention. What you learn from paying attention could make a huge difference in the lives of your students. Pay attention to culture, to media, to social media and leverage those things to convey your message. But whatever you do, pay attention.
4. They Get You What You Need When You Need It- In a lot of ways, this ties in to the previous quality. One of the most difficult things that I have found in Youth Ministry is teaching things that aren’t popular. We like to teach about how worship will set us free and we love to hit up how important it is to make the right decisions, but few of us ever enjoy the “Sex Lessons” (Can I even say that word on this blog?). We love to teach the popular things, but when it comes time to teach something uncomfortable, we tend to shy away from it, even though it is needed. To be an effective Student Pastor, you have to be willing to give the students what they need, when they need it. You have to be willing to be unpopular for the overall spiritual health of your students, no matter what it costs. You are in the position that you are in not to be the Students best friend even though it is important that you connect with your Youth Group and let them know that you care. The reason that you are involved in Youth Ministry in the first place is to help students reach the place that God has called them to be and to encourage them to have their own relationship with Him.
And sometimes, that involves being unpopular for the overall spiritual health of your Students.
These are the qualities of a Student Pastor that make for a good waiter for the spiritual food that God needs us to deliver to our Students. Fortunately for us, it is not our job to manufacture a move of God, but to do everything possible to ensure that our Students receive what God has in store for them.
God is in the kitchen and He is cooking up some incredible things for the lives of your students. It’s my prayer for you guys that you deliver what He has prepared and that the lives of your students are forever changed as a result of your effort in being a great waiter.
And while we’re praying, why don’t you pray for me that my strong dislike for Cracker Barrel subsides to being a mild tolerance, because my wife really loves that place.