In the Pool…

I moved into a new office in my church yesterday. I got tired of setting up a temporary office each day, so we cleared some junk out of one of the rooms and I now have a “new office.” As I was reading through some old “Group” magazines to try to find cool things to hang on the wall, I came across a tiny article written by Duffy Robbins that caught my attention.

Duffy says, “Too many of us approach ministry as if we were lifeguards sitting above the adolescent swimming pool, blowing our whistles and yelling safety instructions from a distance….We won’t keep kids from going under by yelling from our chairs high above the pool. We’ll do it by getting into the water with them.”


I couldn’t agree with this more! I have seen and know some youth pastors who basically lead from the sidelines. They see everything and are able to instruct their students (like a coach on the sidelines) but they never actually get into the game (of life…not the board game!) with their students. You can’t build effective relationships this way!

During my interview at my church, one of the questions that were asked of me was, “During a game at youth group, would you stand at the side and watch, or would you jump in and play alongside of the students?”  Apparently I gave the right answer (because I got the job…haha), but I didn’t understand this at the time. As I look back on it now, however, I see that they were inquiring of what kind of leader I was. They wanted to know if I would be involved in my students’ lives, and if I would, as Duffy said, “get into the water with them!”

I love being involved in my students’ lives. I love walking through life with them and spending time with them. I am not and cannot be the youth pastor that doesn’t go to students’ events, that doesn’t show interest in their lives. God geared me to be in the trenches of youth ministry. He created me to be the kind of youth pastor who goes through the chaos of life right alongside my students! And for that, I am thankful!

– paulg


3 Responses to In the Pool…

  1. angie says:

    I couldn’t agree more my friend. I have struggled with churches that want you to be at all the games but only with the kids who are “good church kids.” I really have started to believe the only reason they wanted me to go to these games was because they cared to omuch about appearances, not the nitty gritty daily problems of life. I still think that those kids have very little hope in that town because it’s just one big secret teen society of “good kids” all doing the exact same things as the “bad kids.” I had to laugh when I approached a parent of a “good kid” in the Y/G whose kid actually threw a pop can out his truck window, yelling “faggot” at gay kid from the youth group. When I asked her what she would say about that kind of thing happening (not tellng her it was her kid who threw the can)and she was outraged that someone who called themselves a Christian would do that. We are so judgmental and dislocated from the lives of teens that we lose the chance to really teach them what we are trying to. They know when a youth pastor has better things to do as well.
    Our youth pastor leaves 1 day a month outside of the weekly youth group to spend with the kids. no outside studies, no special groups. The group went from 30 to 3 over the last 2 years. now they are asking me to take over! Pray for the reality of relational youth work to make a difference through Christ!

    • 123paulg says:


      Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. I’m really late with responding to this though…haha. It’s encouraging to see others who are in support of relational youth ministry. It’s what it’s all about. Thanks again!

      – paulg

  2. emergingyouth says:

    i too read that article by Duffy and found inspiration in it. I agree that we need to participate as youth pastors, both in games but also in life.
    Be prepared to ask the deep questions and walk (or swim) alongside students struggling through this journey we call life.
    the true challenge lies in being approachable and availability to both hurting kids and church kids (although sometimes they are the same) and to allow yourself to be broken and poured out for them.
    sometimes getting wet is annoying (i hate with the students try to throw me into a pool) but sometimes that level of commonality and solidarity is necessary and exactly what they need

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