Guest Post: False Competition

I used to serve as a youth pastor in a small community where there were a number of other great youth pastors.  Our churches were different sizes and denominations, but largely we drew from the same pools of kids from the same schools and neighborhoods.  In fact, sometimes we drew the same kids to multiple youth groups.  If you’ve ever served in a smallish town, you’re probably nodding right now.
The students themselves sometimes drove this competition—again, a problem I’m sure you’ve never experienced.  Youth group comparison and competition often led to youth group hopping.  It was a topic that was kind of taboo in our youth pastor gatherings for a while.
Then Jay moved to town.  He was the new youth pastor at the church that was our church’s primary “competition”.  But I had already decided that I was tired of the competition.  So I called Jay his first week in the job and we got together for coffee.  That was probably the best move I ever made in my relationships with other youth workers in town.  I was just looking to tone down the rivalry, but to my surprise Jay became one of my close friends.  Over time that friendship became obvious to kids—and parents—in our ministries.  They would see us out together in town, or even at each other’s homes, and wonder what was going on.
What’s still intriguing to me about that story is how disarming our friendship was to students and adults in our ministries.  Especially to kids who were set on pitting our youth ministries against one another to be the hottest act in town.  Our friendship communicated something entirely different: we’re on the same team, with the same goal, and our unity only makes the team stronger.  Dispelling the myth of false competition made all the difference—and more than 10 years later, I’m thankful to still call Jay a friend.
So I’m wondering…who among the “competition” will you invite to coffee this week?

brad-avatarBrad Griffin serves as the Associate Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and volunteers in middle school ministry at his church. You can read more of his stuff at the FYI Blog and articles section.

I used to serve as a youth pastor in a small community where there were a number of other great youth pastors.  Our churches were different sizes and denominations, but largely we drew from the same pools of kids from the same schools and neighborhoods.  In fact, sometimes we drew the same kids to multiple youth groups.  If you’ve ever served in a smallish town, you’re probably nodding right now.

The students themselves sometimes drove this competition–again, a problem I’m sure you’ve never experienced.  Youth group comparison and competition often led to youth group hopping.  It was a topic that was kind of taboo in our youth pastor gatherings for a while.

Then Jay moved to town.  He was the new youth pastor at the church that was our church’s primary “competition.”  But I had already decided that I was tired of the competition.  So I called Jay his first week in the job and we got together for coffee.  That was probably the best move I ever made in my relationships with other youth workers in town.  I was just looking to tone down the rivalry, but to my surprise Jay became one of my close friends.  Over time that friendship became obvious to kids–and parents–in our ministries.  They would see us out together in town, or even at each other’s homes, and wonder what was going on.

What’s still intriguing to me about that story is how disarming our friendship was to students and adults in our ministries.  Especially to kids who were set on pitting our youth ministries against one another to be the hottest act in town.  Our friendship communicated something entirely different: we’re on the same team, with the same goal, and our unity only makes the team stronger.  Dispelling the myth of false competition made all the difference—and more than 10 years later, I’m thankful to still call Jay a friend.

So I’m wondering…who among the “competition” will you invite to coffee this week?

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One Response to “Guest Post: False Competition”

  1. I guess… for me the concept of so-called “competition” is not a bad word. Competition for lack of another word brings the best to the surface in all of us, if we choose to see beyond our self interest. Let me explain… I truly believe any and all ministries that are centered on the teachings of Jesus need to be completely “Kingdom” minded! We are merely servants! The neighborhood youth are not our possessions, they do not belong to anyone else other than the Lords… Ministries need to see that we are to “BE” Jesus to the area’s youth to where we are called to regardless who signs our checks! Our influence should go far beyond the church walls. In our area, we do our best to function as a team! Co-labors for the cause of Christ! I can care less if our students attend multiple youth groups… I’m much more interested in creating an environment were the a “Kingdom” movement can get established! Our area YP support each others programs as well as special activities, because we know ultimately “ALL” the youth are looking to see if this whole God thing is real! See “IF” the ministers love each other… that will speak volumes to our youth! Just a thought!

    Shalom,
    Pastor Scott Tidwell