Deer take their first steps within half an hour of their birth. Similarly, those who serve as youth directors learn quite quickly how fast challenges come and they must take steps to tackle them.

The Deer Principle

The Deer Principle is an acrostic that I came up with a few years ago.

D – Disciple Parents

E – Expect to Disappoint

E—Expect Emotional Overload

R – Real Relationships are Mandatory

Disciple Parents

A lot of people going into youth ministry are not ready for the task of discipling parents. Parents make great youth ministry partners. In many youth groups, parents are one of the most likely people to volunteer for youth gatherings and events. Therefore, the youth director should do everything in their power to make sure that parents are adequately prepared to meet the spiritual needs of the youth.

  • What if a youth asks a parent their testimony?
  • What if a youth accepts Jesus and asks the parent the next step to take?
  • What if a youth confesses they have been having suicidal thoughts?

These are just some of the many questions that parents may be asked. Therefore, youth directors should disciple parents so that they can disciple the youth.

Expect to Disappoint

We are going to disappoint people. Whether it is a parent or youth, it is going to happen. When you disappoint someone, only apologize if you actually did something worthy of apologizing for. Avoid the habit of apologizing whenever somebody is disappointed in you, you may be doing the right thing and they simply do not like it. When you disappoint someone, seek reconciliation as soon as possible; if they choose to reconcile or not, at least you made an effort.

We will disappoint people. Sometimes we need to apologize and sometimes we don’t. There is only one perfect person and His name is Jesus, and you are not Him.

Expect Emotional Overload

Youth directors, your schedules will be hectic. They should be, because youth’s schedules are hectic. At times we are going to struggle to balance our lives and it is going to take an emotional toll on us. Any youth director that says they have their schedules perfectly figured out are either arrogant or ignorant.

No matter how much we safeguard our time and set boundaries, we will experience emotional overload. Therefore, instead of letting this reality catch us off guard, we should expect it.

Emotional overload is actually a good thing, it means that we care a lot. As a result of caring so much, we will learn that we cannot be everything for everybody, but we can be something for somebody.

We need to expect emotional overload, take a break when we are experiencing it, use it as an opportunity to strengthen our ministry, and DO NOT RUN FROM IT!

Real Relationships are Mandatory

Youth directors, your youth do not expect you to be perfect. Even youth know that people make mistakes. We do not need to harbor a false identity that makes us look like the hero. There is only one Hero and His name is Jesus, and we are not Him.

Once we come to terms with the fact that we are not perfect, then we can give ourselves the freedom to cultivate authentic relationships with the youth.

Real relationships are mandatory because youth can sense fakeness a mile away.

It is okay to be vulnerable with the youth, in fact, it is necessary. It is necessary to humbly admit and confess our flaws. It will create a culture where imperfection is okay, and thus, create a culture in which Jesus is desperately needed.

Let us be real, so that we can have real relationships with each other, and thereby have real relationships with Jesus.

Be Faithful

Youth ministry is not about us. It is not about who likes us and who does not like us. It is not about making sure everybody remembers everything we say or do. It is not about having a 1,000 person youth group. It is about being faithful to God wherever we are, with whatever we have, in whatever we are doing.