Do What You Say You’re Gonna Do

Wow. I’m a little disappointed in humanity right now. Scratch that… let me be more specific. I’m a little frustrated with my fellow Christians right now.

A little while ago my friend Doug Fields and I Tweeted to our followers asking if there were any youth workers in the Horn Lake/Walls, MS area, just south of Memphis who would be interested in connecting with a kid that needed to be reached out to. Our friend Mark Matlock even connected us with a pastor who knew many people from the area, and he too started asking for help.

I’ll keep it short: Most youth pastors didn’t even return our phone calls, and of three guys that I started a dialogue with about it… they didn’t even return our emails. Several of these guys even told me they’d do something… and didn’t.

Call it what you want—this is a matter of integrity.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a series on Doug’s blog, The 7 Qualities I’m Looking for Hiring a Youth Pastor. In that series, the third quality I listed was “Follow Through,” a quality we’ve observed rapidly becoming extinct. All of us in leadership are experiencing it. As I am writing this blog, Mark Matlock just told me about a lunch he hosted where he had 50 people tell him, “I’ll be there.” Only 30 showed up.

Am I one of the few disappointed by all of this? Am I so ‘old school’ to actually think “yes” means “yes.” (Did I just allude to scripture?)

In the last couple months I’ve literally had four pastors ask me if I knew any good potential youth pastors looking for work—they were looking to hire one. I honestly didn’t have a name to give them (and I know plenty looking for work).

Why does this particular incident sting so bad? A few months ago a teenaged boy emailed me and started a dialogue with me about God, faith and Christians. This young man had some great questions and was really seeking answers. He had encountered some negative experiences with the church and was hesitant to go to the church for help. After a month or two of correspondence, I finally told him, “I think you should try to connect with someone face to face.”

He said, “I’m afraid to. Plus I don’t know where to go.”

I told him, “I can find a safe place.”

Thus started my search… my search that has led me to find flakey people around the nation.

So I’m pleading again: Is there anyone that lives in the Horn Lake/Walls, MS area who would be willing to actually reach out to this kid?

Or was his stereotype of the church correct?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
[Are you getting this daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it's real easy-go here.
This entry was posted in Jonathan's Rant, Leadership, Youth Ministry Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Do What You Say You’re Gonna Do

  1. Mark Hammond says:

    Jonathan, we have spoke this year about having you come in and speak to our parents. My name is Mark Hammond. I have entered my 16th year in youth ministry. Your post today is dead on. Thanks for having the courage to be honest here. We all are busy and fall short. But a pastor should never turn his/her eyes away from a potentially “lost sheep”. This is not about me or self serving. But in my 5 years at my current church, God has quadrupled our youth attendance. That is just a # however. The better # that counts is we have baptized nearly 100 students in that span of time. Why? How? Because we are “selling” the greatest “product” there is…JESUS. His grace, his mercy and forgiveness. His peace and strength in times of trouble. We have had numerous students come to myself or our youth coaches and share suicide attempts, sexual and physical abuse, cutting, bullying, eating disorders and so on. Students look to us, the church to help them unpack and work through that stuff so they can see Jesus. We never turn a young person away in crisis or with questions of who Jesus is. Your experience is disappointing to hear for me as well. I honestly would love to chat with this young man. I have privately interacted via facebook for hours at all hours about my God and my faith. I agree face to face is needed and he needs to make a connection to a local church. But I also dont want him feeling like we/the church turned a blind eye. We need to be good stewards of what God has called us to do and be. I have coined a phrase at our church that we have a front row seat to seeing God change family trees! This young man is searching and his family tree could look different for generations if that email, a call is made and a relationship is nurtured. But we have to be intentional as pastors/shepherds to guide and direct our flock but also keep an eye out for the “potential lost sheep”. I say a lost dog the other day. It had tags of who owned him. This young man is searching to find “home” and his Master/Father is Christ. Someone needs to help him find his way. Thanks for letting me ramble. In Him, 4 Him-Mark Hammond

  2. Phil S says:

    It’s easy to say “Amen” to this post. I work hard on being responsible and a man of integrity, which maybe is why I’ve been at one church for over 6 years since graduating from college (I’m guessing this is an extreme rarity).

    However, that being said, I do not want to seem perfect or put myself on a high horse. I’ll take this post to personally reflect and ask a few others what they think and if there are any integrity issues I need to improve on.

    I don’t know if the problem you mention is that many Youth Pastors lack integrity or if it’s about focusing too much on maintaining who they have or a lack of accountability from their staff peers or just plain laziness….or maybe some of each.

    Hope to see you in the Indy area soon!

  3. James says:

    I wish I was in that area. There’s nothing I like more than reaching out to people who are searching. My prayers are with you and the young man that you find a good place for him.

  4. Matt McGill says:

    total matter of integrity …

    people aren’t interruptions to our ministry…they are our ministry…

    it’s a drag when people love leadership more than the people they are leading … it’s worse when they actually think they have lasting influence because they stand in front of a crowd or organize an event …

    I’ve dropped the ball before…but let’s call it that… responding in grace (or asking for it) actually assumes we’ve done something wrong… let’s admit it, learn from it…

    ok…too much of a rant…I have my own blog for that! HA!!

  5. Brandy says:

    Breaks my heart.. like to think that these pastors might not have been the right “safe” to meet the needs of this kid, though an “I’m sorry, but……” would have changed the disappointment in a different light. Praying that God touches the heart of a leader who can stand up, stand out and lovingly share God’s grace and mercy with this kid..Thank you for your heart for the next generation!

  6. Eric says:

    I agree as well. It breaks my heart to see students fall away. But I also have a different take. I believe too many youth ministers are seeing youth ministry as a stepping stone to being a senior pastor someday. Universities and Bible colleges have dropped the ball too by filling students head with knowledge without teaching practical steps to manage the ministry in order to allow them to be free enough to reach out to a student like this. Its why so many youth pastors quit after a year.

    I have been a youth pastor at the church where I am for over six years now. Let me take a moment to encourage yp’s everywhere to see the task at hand as your highest calling next to your family and God. Ministry is interuptions. So structure your day so that you can handle them without dropping the ball. P.S. I also agree with Matt that a little grace is in order as well. Most yp’s are drinking from a firehose and trying to breath.

  7. Michelle says:

    This truly breaks my heart. Our community network of youth workers recently reached out to our respective congregations after getting a go-ahead from the public school that mentors were needed for kids at risk. Care to guess what kind of response we had? Come on, Christians! Be the Church!

    • That’s always frustrating. I’ve seen it happen many times. I find in that situation that the personal invite goes miles. “Hey Susan, I need your help. I know you have a passion for making a difference in the lives of young people, and I have an awesome opportunity…”

  8. Austin says:

    Jonathan – friend saw this and told me about it. I’m near the horn lake area. Email me above and we’ll connect.

  9. Berdine says:

    I totally agree, I live in South Africa and it happens here also. The problem I think sometimes is that people are looking to have the title and not the responsibility. It’s really sad. I talked to teenagers and the they all say the same, although same are not in a very large youth group, is that sometimes there will be no youth night if some of the ”popular” kids cancelled. I believe that 1 kid is just as imported than as a 100 and a 100 as 1. I really hope that there is someone who can help this kid because they are very important. God bless

  10. Dan says:

    This saddens me greatly. I wish I lived in this area. Praying God will place it on someones heart to respond to your request and that this young person will come to a lasting relationship with Christ. Reminds me of the parable of the lost sheep. The issue of integrity is a major issue in the business world as well. I have worked for a fortune 500 company for the last 33 years and people of integrity are no where to be found in the work place. Like business ethics they do not exist.

  11. Brian says:

    I saw someone else commented a few days ago saying they were from the area, I hope that worked out. If not, I am about 40 miles from Horn Lake, so not real close, but I am willing to help if I can, just let me know!

  12. Tracey says:

    I just saw this same mantra, “Do what you say you are going to do!” by Mike Huckabee. I see it too, over and over, but in a different way. I support the youth ministries as admin, and getting people to respond when I am trying to set up service for our group is difficult. WE WANT TO COME AND HELP YOU, I want to scream, but I remain calm. They drop the ball over and over. This is part of the human condition. I’m also reading Atlas Shrugged, many of the same themes. I commend you Jonathan, for not being afraid to point this out. And to Eric, I agree. We need more than scholarly knowledge. Our current YP doesn’t have a degree in ministry, but is a great YP.

    Also, anyone know of any worship or youth opps in west suburbs of Chicago? My son needs part time work, is going to Liberty U right now and has a degree in Music Business. Thanks. ; )