Dodging Bullets: Gaming George
George seems like one of the guys, but he is paid to be the youth pastor. George loves the idea of relational ministry (not the philosophy of ministry, but just having relationships with teens). Just out of college himself, he sees youth ministry as a great way to get paid to do what he did throughout his youth ministry undergrad studies, play games. You can normally find him playing the latest video game with his students Kurt and Jeff or outside playing basketball and dodgeball.
George despises organizational tasks and office time. He feels his time is best spent with his ‘disciples’ rather than in his office making bulletins, calendars and preparing for sermons. George spends many afternoons and nights out with the guys so he shows up to church late. He justifies his tardiness to work as comp-time for being out so late with his youth. His leaders appreciate George’s attachment to the group of guys he’s surrounded himself with, but wonder how well he connects with other students. George gives so much energy into one or two cliques he often just has leftovers for his other students. His other students like him because he is the life of the party, but they don’t view him as a leader, which creates some confusion in their lives. They don’t know if he is their pastor or friend.
Pastor Andy and parents notice George’s waning quality of work, as his gaming becomes more of an excuse to slack off and not fulfill his duties. This comes to a head when parents complain that details from snow camp were missing a few weeks before the big event. Pastor Andy was firm on having George put more office hours in, keeping track of his hours and telling him that he couldn’t bill gaming hours to the church and that ministry was more than dodgeball.
George became angry at the ‘micromanagement’ by Pastor Andy and felt that he couldn’t work in such an environment. He started to look elsewhere for work. George grew more and more frustrated at having to submit sermon outlines for his Wednesday night groups, monthly calendars two months in advance and keeping logs of contact time with students, parents and his office time. Pastor Andy didn’t want to do it, but he felt that without a firm hand, George would game his way out of any work and play for his paycheck. Pastor Andy and George’s relationship became tense and George chose to leave the church for one that would appreciate ‘relational youth ministry.’
For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life,
doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.
Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ
to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.
George loved playing games and didn’t understand that youth ministry was a profession that requires office time. George wanted to use his ‘ministry’ as a license to play. While he may not see it now, it was apparent to others that he just wanted another year of college.
Questions for Reflecting
– Where do you think George crossed the line between relational ministry and playstational ministry?
– How much time do you count when playing with your teens?
– What tools do you use to keep balance in your ministry between the mundane and fun tasks?
George needs to mature in his understanding of ministry, that as a lead youth worker or youth pastor one needs to do administrative and organizational tasks first so that others can be freed up to do ministry. Here are some tips on not Gaming like George.
– Keep an informal calendar of your weekly. Know how many hours you are expected to work and break them up into reasonable blocks of time: 15-20 hours of lesson preparation, 5 hours of leadership development, 10 hours of in ministry time (scheduled ministry events), 3 hours for staff meetings and consultation, 2 hours for vision and future planning, 5 hours for administration, 5-15 hours for meetings with parents and students; all this should average to 50ish hours.
– The more of a leader you are, the less time you will have with students. You can have more impact by training other leaders, being a visionary leader and setting a solid foundation for youth and family ministry.
– I’m not saying that playing games should never count as ministry, but if you count 4 hours a day of “relational youth ministry” (24 hours a week), plus 5-10 hours of youth group activities (total 30+ hours); Thirty-plus hours of play is out of proportion to what most job descriptions require for administrative/organizational duties.
– To help discern what to count and what not to count, I ask myself how much of that time did I spend intentionally building relationships and how much time did I just spend playing a game with friends.
– If you are still lost, ask your Pastor how much time they would count, ask some youth ministry friends/mentors the same question to get a handle on your work schedule.