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Spring 2002 · Vol. 31 No. 1 · pp. 96–100 

Ministry Compass

The Tale of Sir Rodney

Rod Jost

I was born the first of four children (and only son) to a loving couple in Hillsboro, Kansas, in the fall of 1959. My father was the youngest of six and expected to take over the family dairy. Times were good but also unsettling. Eventually southerly winds drove our family to Nebraska to raise corn on the lush plains around Henderson. I helped on the farm as a youngster and learned what it meant to have responsibility—I was more than likely learning what would be my lifelong trade.

Never go into battle alone.

At the age of twelve an unexpected event marked my young life. Our local Mennonite Brethren church was having its annual Bible conference with Rudy Boschman and the Messengers Quartet when I sensed the call of God upon my life. I prayed about what I was feeling and decided to make it public. At age seven I had received Christ as savior, but this was a definite call to ministry. So when the invitation came for a public commitment one evening, I went forward, stood in the pulpit, and shared that God was calling me to dedicate my life to ministry. When the meetings were over, it was back to our routines of church, school, and farming. Junior high and high school came and went, and at times with much peril.

In the fall of 1977, I packed my bags for what I perceived would be a two-year vacation at Tabor College. It was kind of like spring break all the time for me. Then, during my second year there, God spoke again through a chain of events which led me to rededicate my life to serve him. I returned home assuming that all I could do with my life was to {97} farm. After all, I was an only son to a successful farmer, and my GPA at Tabor was 1.1.

Soon I found myself involved in the junior high Wednesday night program at my home church in Henderson. I really enjoyed that age group, and I was working alongside some men in their late thirties. After the first year, they blessed me and handed over the whole responsibility of that ministry.

Through the next five years, members from our church and community continued to tap me on the shoulder and say, “You know, you’re really pretty good at this youth work stuff. Maybe you should go into it full time.” By this time I was married to the wonderful Lady Lynette, and we had our first of three children, a girl, Jenna. After much prayer and pondering, we took the giant step and went back to college for two and a one-half years. During that period I worked part-time at a church, and I graduated with a GPA of 3.2.


“What is your name?”

Finally, with school over and being ready to faithfully serve, we accepted a call to the Hillsboro MB Church. Oddly enough, my legacy at Tabor did not hinder the leadership from hiring me. They actually said they believed it would help me understand young people better.

I hit the ground running. I knew how to run a youth program, I understood the community and its youth, plus I had a strong work ethic. I was finally a full-time “youth pastor,” or, as my title put it, “Director of Youth Ministries.” What follows are some gleanings from my twenty-two years of youth ministry.

“What is your quest?”

In the first place, your call must be clear and your commitment sincere. A fruitful tenure in youth ministry, as in a strong marriage, requires both call and commitment. Love and romance are important, but commitment is what gets it through fights, dirty diapers, and life-altering decisions. In youth ministry, passion for youth is what usually gets us into the game—as in professional sports, the big bucks are a side benefit—but commitment to following God’s lead keeps us there.

Side note: Not all who start youth ministry are called to it for long periods of time, let alone for life. I have had many a frustrating moment when I felt it would be better for my family and my sanity to be called to some {98} other ministry or occupation. But going back and remembering God’s call and his promise to provide offers reassurance that these moments, too, will pass and I will benefit from them.

“What is your favorite color?”

Conflict! It has taken its toll on many a valiant youth pastor. Conflict can be with fellow staff, a disgruntled youth or parent. It may have started because of a poor judgment call, planning gone awry, or different views on the priorities for youth ministry within the church. If you have seen the Monty Python classic, The Holy Grail, conflict in youth ministry can feel much like the final question on the bridge of death: “What is your favorite color?” In everyday life, it’s a nebulous question. But in a do-or-die scenario, you have to give the right answer.

I will be the first to say that you have to pick your battles, but at times there is no way to avoid one. The hardest but best lesson I have learned concerning conflict is: Never go into battle alone. When confronting an individual, take the situation before God, but also take the appropriate personnel along. I had to learn this the hard way.

In the second year of ministry in one of the churches where I worked, I ran into some conflict as a result of misinformation a youth had brought home to the parents. Naturally, I tried to correct the situation. But no matter how hard I tried, the issue seemed to get even further confused. It left my reputation tainted. Even years later, false rumors were still floating around town. I decided this was not going to happen again. The next time a major battle arose, I brought in our lead pastor to be a mediator. It was the best thing I ever did. This may sound like basic common sense, but I am amazed how many times youth pastors go into the battle with no support, and conflict escalates to monumental proportions.


“Camelot!”—King Arthur, Sir Gallahad, Sir Lancelot

“It’s only a model.”—Patsy

In reality there is no perfect church, but you have to keep an optimistic perspective. Whenever youth pastors get together, inevitably they express their frustration with their present employment situation. Throughout the Scriptures God allows his people—especially his chosen servants—to lament their circumstances. As youth pastors, our challenge is to find the appropriate setting to do so. This could be a weekly staff {99} meeting, a support group set up for the youth pastor, or a talk with a trusted friend.

I am fortunate to have all three resources as options, but each one serves a different function, and for good reason. If you are frustrated with one or several staff members, you may not be able to lament all of what you feel at a staff meeting. No matter how open staff are, some emotions are better shared in a more private setting.

On the other hand, a trusted friend can hear all your woes but may have little influence to defend your case. Use your resources wisely and don’t forget your most valuable: if you will ask for the ability to forgive and forget, God promises to comfort and guide you through every situation. It sounds basic but it doesn’t come easy. Every time you pass the individual with whom you have tension, the emotions burn deeper. It’s better to let such issues come to the forefront.


“You’re in great peril.”—Sir Lancelot

Accountability. Over the past twenty years I have seen too many pastors crash and burn because of infidelity or addictive activities. Some have been people I looked to as mentors. No matter how much individuals think they are protected from falling into an inappropriate situation, Satan can throw a sucker punch and destroy family, relationships, and reputation in a matter of seconds. Find several trusted friends with whom you can be accountable and with whom you can share the temptations and thoughts that could lead to trouble. Have them pray with and for you.

“Find the Grail.”

Finish the race! This past fall in Sunday school we studied the kings of Israel. So many of them started out following God but finished their lives and opportunity for service in disaster or in spiritual weakness. Whatever length of time God has called you to youth ministry, make it your focus to align yourself with God’s will for the ministry he has called you to.

My reflections over the past twenty-two years of youth ministry may sound familiar and as simple as common sense. But I have found that the best advice I have received has been just that. One phrase that has stuck in my brain more than any other is advice given to me by Paul Naumen, a good friend and an active minister to youth for more than thirty years. {100} He said, “Remember, Rod, more than likely youth will not remember any of the lessons or speeches you have given them, but I guarantee you they will remember who you are and what you stood for!”

The End

“No llamas were harmed during the writing of this article.”

For the past fourteen years, Rod Jost has been Director of Youth Ministries at Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church, Hillsboro, Kansas. He and his wife Lynette have three children.

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