After I was done with a year of Masters Commission I had a goal to become a youth pastor. I probably sent fifty resumes to different churches. I didn’t care who hired me I just wanted to be in youth ministry. The problem was most Mega-Churches where not looking for a kid just clean from drugs for a year to be their Youth Pastor.
In the summer of 2003 I decided to go visit my parents who moved to Alaska my senior year in High School. When I was there I visited the area my Dad was pastoring a small church in called Mt View. This area broke my heart, gang infested, drug infested and run down. It was ranked top in the nation for suicides. I always knew I was called to the places a lot of people would not go. When I told people I was going to drive through Mt View they would say things like, “Don’t go alone.” or ”I stay far away from that area” Mt View actually has two ways to get into that part of the city. They blocked off most entrances, that way if there was a crime the police could shut it down until they found who ever was wanted.
I knew this is where I would have my first Youth Pastor Job. There was no pay check no getting hired, they where happy for anyone that would help. I started a few Wednesdays later in the Basement of the small church with five kids.
Since I had no way to get paid I had to find a full-time job that worked with my calling. I started at Lowe’s on the night shift. I would go into work at 10:00pm and get off work at 6:00am. I would go home sleep for a few hours and then go be a youth pastor. At this time I wasn’t married so time management with the family was not an issue.
I never knew what I had at that church, the amazing opportunity that I still look back on and miss. I would go to Youth Pastors Conferences and see all the “Paid Guys” in a circle that I felt I was not usually accepted. I would try to make friends with the “popular youth pastors” but in the church world I felt looked down upon for being bi-vocational. It was like I was only half a youth pastor. I had one full-time Pastor named Kent Elder at Muldoon Assembly who really believed in me and helped me.
I remember being at those conferences and hearing from these guys with multiple staff members trying to tell me how to improve my ministry. But to no fault to them they couldn’t relate. I remember one time Pastor Kent Elder leaning over to me and saying, “I guess this doesn’t help a guy with no budget, who pays to be in Youth Ministry.” That made me laugh.
You see I had a mission in Mt. View. I will never forget the first time I got the kids Pizza and at the end of the night a kid named Nick, who smelled like urine and wore the same clothes for at least two weeks in a row came to me and asked if he could take the rest of the Pizza home. I laughed and said, “Bro, you ate a whole pie by yourself, I can’t afford you.” With a scared look on his face he said, “I’m sorry for asking its just my little brother hasn’t eaten this week either and I wanted to bring him some.”
I broke in tears, I had to get a better job! I needed to get these kids food. I got innovative and started to hit up every pizza shop in town. I finally found a Papa Murphy’s who was willing to give me half off on all the Pizza I needed.
For two years I walked those streets coming up with ideas and ways to help Mt. View all while working a full-time job. God opened so many doors. One day while working at Lowe’s I was in the lumber section and this dude in a brand new Mercedes parked right in front of the door and walked in. I was helping him find what he needed. He turned to me and said, “Have you ever considered sales for a career.” I said, “No” and started to tell him about my mission in Mt View. Turns out he was the Vice President of the Cable company in town and hired me on the spot. I went from $10.00 an hour at Lowes to sometimes 3 to 4 thousand a week in commissions in sales at the cable company. That opened the door to a lot more pizza.
One day when I was walking the streets and walked into the leader of the SOS. A Samoan gang that kinda ran Mt. View. He looked at me and said, “You’re the crazy white preacher everyone talks about.” I said “Yep that’s me.” He said, “Thanks for feeding some of the kids around here.” I began to tell him my heart to reach Mt. View for Jesus. He laughed and said, “I get the crazy part now! I don’t need Jesus I need a job. I’ve got 5 kids.” I quickly replied, “I’ll get you a job.” Funny thing is when those words came out. I got scared, I had no idea where to get this guy a job. But God opened doors and I did find him a job. The next week my Youth ministry went from about 15 to close to 200. He made the whole SOS gang go to my youth group.
All of the sudden people started to notice. People would ask me what I was doing to grow such a large youth ministry, I had to tell them I reached one guy. Not exactly the growth plan they where looking for. I got some full-time youth pastor jobs offered to me. I thought I had finally made it. It wasn’t to long before I was leaving what I put my heart and soul into building for a paycheck. My need for acceptance and approval from the church world was overwhelming and I thought the full-time status would bring that.
Funny thing was when I got the full-time job, the circle of “Popular Pastors” still felt unwelcoming. Turns out I needed more healing than those guys that I felt did not want me around because I was Bi-Vocational.
What is my point in this story? When I got a paycheck from a church, my anointing didn’t change and I think I got lazy with innovation.
I want to encourage you today if you are a volunteer youth pastor. You are the ones who should be celebrated and probably should be teaching the ones with paychecks how to get things done. There is no level system to God. I have come to learn I am not a pastor because of the company name on my Paycheck. I am a pastor because of the calling God has placed on my life.
Paul the Apostle was Bi-Vocatioal and this is a man who the entire church looks too for ministry advice. He is known as one of the greats. In heaven and maybe even on earth you will be known as that too.
Be encouraged, build, don’t miss the amazing gift you have. I really did miss what I had in my thoughts of needing a paycheck from a church. The true warriors are the ones who pay to do what they do and I honor you today.
No conference or camp I have ever spoke at, no circle I have ever been accepted in has been as fulfilling in my life as showing a kid named Nick who smelled like pee, bruised from the beatings of his dad the love of Jesus. No paycheck was ever worth the stories of miracles and breakthroughs God brought to help us to feed a town of kids pizza on a Weds night so they could get at least one meal.
Don’t find your identity in where you are paid. I call on all Pastors, find your identity in him. Stand up Pastor and know you are a giant in the Kingdom. The warrior who needs nothing and yet lays down his life for the mission of the King.