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Leading Through Personal Trials

Leading Through Personal Trials

By Adam Mashni

Cartel note: Adam Mashni was one of five youth workers who gave a 5 – 7 minute ‘soapbox’ talk in the Saturday morning main session of the Middle School Ministry Campference a couple weeks ago. We loved what these people talked about, and thought they would make great blog posts for others to access their thoughts. 

On May 8, 2014 I was told I most likely had Testicular Cancer.  I went in for a referral appointment to essentially push aside any extreme worries.  Within 10 seconds the urologist said, “this doesn’t feel good.”  That night I went in for emergency surgery to remove my left testicle.  My life, everything about it, was put on pause (and I also started leaning a little…too soon?). A few days later I would find out it is indeed cancer and it had spread to my abdominal lymph nodes and my lungs.  I was to be married on August 8, 2014…so the 3 months leading up to my wedding was full of Chemo treatments and doctor appointments.

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Resonating with Leading Up: The importance of Identity

Leading UpI recently read Joel Mayward’s book Leading Up, an excellent book for Christian leaders on leadership and influencing people around you. The book really resonated with me and by sharing some of my thoughts and own experiences, I’d like to show you why.

Who are you?

“Before leading up you have to know who you are.”

Joel writes this in the first chapter after the story on youth pastor Logan his book begins with. It seems like a cliché this statement, but there’s a deep truth in it. Joel shares his own story of how his leadership started from a place of insecure pride and how that affected his leadership.

My leadership started the same way, though I’d say it was more insecurity than pride. You see, I wasn’t at all convinced I was the right man for the job of youth pastor (or youth coordinator as I was officially called). First of all I wasn’t a man, but a woman and while our church was open to women in leadership and preaching roles, I was one of the firsts to actually make that theory a reality.

Secondly, I did not have a theological background and that’s the one that really made me insecure. I always felt I wasn’t good enough, didn’t know enough compared to others, and it affected my leadership.

At times I was afraid to give my opinion, so sure it would be shot down, than no one would take me seriously. It also made me defensive whenever I encountered criticism, even constructive and rightful feedback.

Other times I would compensate for my own insecurity by being too bold, too dominant in discussions. I’m sure others have felt intimidated by me at times, which is rather ironic because it came from feeling intimidated myself.

Humble confidence

The healthy attitude of a Christian leader is humble confidence, Joel describes and I couldn’t agree more. The expression ‘your identity in Christ’ is one that is in my opinion too easily used without ever making it practical, especially when it comes to leadership. But how Joel describes humble confidence rings true: “allowing Christ to be King, to shape our desires and ambitions instead of trying to build them ourselves.”

The list he gives with characteristics of a humbly confident leader may look like an easy one, but it will take a lifetime of leadership to realize every aspect. And so it should be, ‘level 5 leaders’ aren’t just born, they grow out of experiences combined with the right attitude.

It’s that attitude that makes all the difference. Becoming aware of your insecurity, your pride, that’s a huge first step in changing your leadership into leading up. Living from your identity in Christ is a lifetime journey, but it’s one that is the indispensable foundation under influential leadership. Without a healthy identity, there is no healthy leadership and there is no chance of leading up.

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Rules: it’s the ‘how’ that matters to teens

Contrary to what you may think, teens don’t have a problem with rules. But they may have an issue with how you bring them. How you communicate rules as a youth leader or a parent is a huge factor in teen’s decisions whether or not to stick to these rules.

The University of Gent (Belgium) has come to these conclusions after multiple researches amongst young people. Their conclusion is that you shouldn’t avoid rules with teens, but how you introduce them is important.

If you introduce rules in an authoritative and forceful way, teens will feel threatened in their freedom and will likely act out the opposite of the rules. This phenomenon is known as psychological reactance and it’s been well documented in several researches.

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The 7 regrets of youth pastors (1)

I’ve been in youth ministry for about fourteen years in one capacity or another. Looking back, I sure wish I would have done some things differently. I’m fairly sure many of us feel that way.

Now I personally think regrets are a waste of time but ‘7 things many youth pastors wish they’d done differently in hindsight’ didn’t sound quite as catchy for a title…

So here, we go with 7 things many youth pastors wished they had done differently aka the 7 regrets of youth pastors:

1. Avoiding conflicts

As Christians, we’re supposed to be loving, kind and forgiving. The problem is that this often results in an avoidance of conflict at all costs. I’ve let certain situations continue for too long because I wanted to avoid a conflict. Well, the conflict happened anyway and it was much nastier than it would have been if I had faced it head on.

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Family First?

Family First?

Once upon a time there was a volunteer youth worker. She was committed to her church, had invested into the students of the congregation for years, and saw class after class graduate through the ranks of the student ministry.

And she lived happily ever after.


Once upon a time there was a spouse of a volunteer youth worker. He also loved his church and was thankful that his wife had found a place to use her spiritual gifts, share her heart, apply her abilities, maximize her personality and employ her experiences. She almost seemed to be a better person because of it.

The only problem was she never seemed to be home.

It didn’t seem like much at first to give up going to the same church service together since there was another one right after. Their young son really liked the class the church offered at the first service, though. Consequently, the husband would take the son to children’s church and sit through the first service by himself. Since his wife taught during that hour, it became common for them to never attend service together as a couple.

Then there were the times that he noted when she was home she wasn’t fully present. There was always another lesson to plan, another student to call or another meeting to be at. Even though he found his wife to be a much healthier Christian for all she was doing, he began to resent how unhealthy his marriage was becoming.

He spoke up a few times about it and asked her to cut back. She did at first, but then drifted back into the same load of a commitment. He thought about bringing it up again but felt like he was the voice of Satan himself for even thinking it.

Finally, the day came when he asked for a divorce. It was enough to scare her to back out of everything altogether. They had conversation after conversationover the next few months, eventually agreeing not to get a divorce. She eventually went back to teaching “a little bit.”

And they lived amicably ever after.


Once upon a time there was a paid youth pastor. He started to notice that his faithful volunteer was back in full force, although her husband was strangely absent at weekend services.

How’s your husband these days,“ the youth pastor inquired. “I haven’t seen him around.”

He started attending another church,” she answered. “I don’t like it, but at least we’re not divorced. Our son comes with me most weeks and I check him into children’s church before I go teach.

Wait, what?” the youth pastor again asked. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

We’re managing everything just fine,” she responded. “He has his life, and I have mine. Besides, this way I get to serve and make a real difference in the lives of the students. And we don’t argue as much. He feels closer to God than ever before.”

And they lived adequately ever after.


Once upon a time there was a senior pastor. The youth pastor reported all that he’d learned of the situation, asking what the most biblical response should be to the situation. It felt wrong somehow, and yet the couple seemed okay with it. After thinking long and hard and praying on it, the senior pastor offered this advice that he sensed was the most God-honoring way to proceed:

(fill in the blank)

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How to create support for your ideas and plans

You can have the best ideas ever and create strategic plans for your youth ministry ‘till you’re blue in the face, but unless others support you, you’ll never get anywhere. It’s very important to have vision, but it’s equally important to have people support your vision. So how do you do that? How do you create support for your ideas and plans and get people to cheer you on? It’s all about the three R’s:




Research your plans

The first thing that’s important is that your plans for your youth ministry are well researched and well developed. You need to know what you’re talking about and be able to back it up with numbers, statistics and facts. Many plans are grand in scope, but very sketchy on the details and no one will support those. People need to see your vision is  grounded in reality. Continue reading How to create support for your ideas and plans

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Do you know your ‘red buttons’?

A couple of years ago, I was doing a management training provided by the hospital I worked for back then. One of the topics was team work and the trainer asked us to think about a specific coworker or employee we had trouble working with because they irritated us for some reason.

Someone came to my mind immediately: an experienced nurse whom I respected very much, but who frustrated me to no end. The trainer then explained the concept of ‘red buttons’: certain behavior or even certain words that trigger an excessive, overly emotional response in you.

I immediately knew the trainer was onto something and after some analyzing, I could figure out what went wrong with that nurse. She was patronizing me. She had over 30 years experience as a nurse and she made me feel it. I liked her as a person and I valued her as a nurse, but every time we interacted she pushed that red button with her attitude (though I’m sure she didn’t even mean it like that). Continue reading Do you know your ‘red buttons’?

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Making an operational year plan for your youth ministry

So, you’ve created a mission and a vision statement and you’ve translated this into a strategic plan. Now what? Now you make an operational plan, also known as a year plan. It’s the concrete plan of what you want to do in the upcoming year or season.

An example of an operational plan

Let’s say your mission is this:

“Making students into devoted disciples of Jesus”

You’ve made a vision statement in which you describe your dream of making at least 50% of your young people into devoted followers of Jesus, meaning that they attend church, read their Bible by themselves, pray daily and show in their daily life that they are becoming more and more like Jesus by bearing fruit both in character and in evangelism. Continue reading Making an operational year plan for your youth ministry