Fears of a new venture

What does youth ministry in this neighborhood look like?

That’s the big open question in my mind this week. A week ago I met with a couple of leaders of Harbor and let them know… I think I’m at a place where giving my energy to lead something makes sense. I’ve completely enjoyed stepping back– forcefully– and spending time in the pews. And yet it’s clear within my soul that I need to help Harbor figure out what is next with student ministry.

Replication is my fear. Honestly, that’s it. I am fearful that I’ll help lead them a direction towards “adamisms” and things that I’m comfortable with. I’m fearful that I lead them to replicating stuff that other practitioners are already doing without being sensitive to the needs of our church and community. I’m fearful that we’ll be too ambitious or not ambitious enough. I’m fearful that in our zeal to meet the tangible needs of students we won’t be Gospel-driven enough. I’ve lived in cities for half of my adult life, but all of my ministry experience is with suburban kids. I’m not fearful of the kids. But I am in full knowledge that I don’t know how to identify with their struggles. So that’s an over-arching fear mixed in there, as well.

Fear. It’s where I’m at. Not the trembling kind of fear before embarking on an unknown ministry for the first time. Thankfully, I’m not that 21 year old kid grabbing the mic for the first time. On the one hand this is a more carnal fear. Some fear is based in the success of my past and present ministry. What if I screw it up and everyone looks at me and says, “Doesn’t he work for Youth Specialties? Isn’t he supposed to be an expert? How come he sucks so bad?” On the other hand, this is fear based in saying to Jesus… “OK, I’ll try something completely out of my experience and culture. I’ll go where you want and do what you need done. I’ll swallow pride and embrace not getting it right and risk the humiliation of starting over.” It’s a fear based in a life dedicated to saying to the Lord, “I want to change this world, help me be that leader that changes things in my world.

I’ve learned a thing or two. I’ve lead enough stuff to know that fear can be useful. Fear ultimately forces you to the core of what you’re trying to do. Fear forces you to look at the proposition of failure with a knowing grin. I may be afraid of failure but I’ve got enough experience to know what makes a success too.

3 life lessons I’m applying— If you are in the same boat– I’d suggest these things.

1- This is no one man show. Not that I’ve ever really run a one man show, per se. But from the onset of this I want to be clear that I’m no more than 1/4th the leader. I wish I had set this rule up 10 years ago!

2. This is about developing leaders for influence. If I’m going to invest my time in developing leaders, it’s not going to be so that they can be the shift supervisor at Starbucks. This is going to be about something much more important than this.

3. No more babysitting complacent teens. Since I’m not drawing a paycheck on this thing, I feel less-than-zero pressure to entertain. I want to invest in students, I want to invest in developing leaders. I want to teach God’s Word. And I have the ability to say no to the rest. Fun is always part of the equation. But watching kids be bored with the most exciting stuff on the planet… not my cup of tea.

More coming on this, I’m sure.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.


  1. I agree in theory with your points.

    In actually living them out, I’ve found I’m a control freak who likes everything to go according to plan. I need to learn to let other people shape the ministry. Or better yet, trust GOD to shape the ministry through other people.

  2. This is genius right here, I don’t care what anybody says:

    watching kids be bored with the most exciting stuff on the planet… not my cup of tea

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